We’re all keen to go green aren’t we? All being urged to ditch single-use plastic, switch to smart cars and embrace all initiatives to halt climate change? So why would anyone think that an enormous incinerator generating CO2 is the answer to the world’s waste problems?
But French multi-national Veolia think that their plan to build a huge incinerator just outside Alton is a much better option than the recycling plant currently on their site, right on the edge of Surrey. They have submitted a planning application (33619/007) to Hampshire County Council, https://planning.hants.gov.uk/ApplicationDetails.aspx?RecNo=21197. Anyone can comment on the plans, even if they do not live in the immediate area and the public consultation period runs from July 3 to August 14.
But local residents have now been joined by TV presenter Phil Spencer in opposing the plans because the development will have a lasting impact on the health, livelihood and landscape of the Wey Valley, on the edge of the South Downs National Park. A committed group of individuals launched the No Wey Incinerator action group in March and hundreds have signed up to firstname.lastname@example.org for regular updates. The campaign group has raised funds to assemble a panel of experts to assess the application and give objectors advice on the most effective planning objections. This team of planning consultants, environmentalists and landscape specialists, all with experience of opposing similar developments, is assessing the weighty planning application right now and guidance based on their professional opinion will be published on the No Wey website and also circulated in a leaflet to all households in the Alton area.
TONNES OF CO2
The proposed development will burn rubbish 24/7 with accompanying noise and light pollution and increased HGV movements. Huge plumes of steam will be ejected from two 80m chimneys that are higher than most of the surrounding hillsides. And it’s not innocent steam that will spew from the incinerator. The plant will burn 330,000 tonnes of rubbish a year and as each tonne of waste will generate a tonne of CO2, that’s 330,000 tonnes of CO2 released into atmosphere. How can that make sense? We’re all trying to do our bit to work towards decarbonisation. The subject has been debated more than once in Parliament, with MPs saying, ‘to allow incineration to proliferate simply does not address the climate emergency that we all agree exists.’ It seems we all agree, except for Veolia and Hampshire County Council which already has three incinerators. So does it really need another one?
The council is already being questioned over its waste policy, because the whole of Hampshire has a shameful recycling record, compared to other authorities. DEFRA’s Local Authority recycling league table shows that Hampshire is way behind other areas, coming in at a pitiful number 197. Furthermore, the county’s own target of at least 60% recycling by 2020, has now been downgraded to 50% because it has only managed to get to 41.3%. So it is already failing on this score and studies show that areas that have incinerators consistently fail to meet recycling targets, so if this goes ahead, Hampshire is never going to improve.
And where will the waste for this gigantic incinerator come from? Veolia made it clear at its public consultations in March that the plant is destined to handle commercial and industrial waste. That can’t be generated by Alton and the surrounding villages, so it will be coming up from the South Coast 30 miles away, where most of this waste is produced. Yet Hampshire’s own waste policy states that all waste developments should be located near the sources of waste. So this would be a flagrant contradiction of published policy, leaving the Alton area to suffer the consequences for years to come. The effort required to shift such large quantities of waste will mean over 31,000 HGV movements per annum, plus additional traffic from ancillary traffic such as staff vehicles.
In addition, if Hampshire does not produce the 330,000 tonnes of rubbish that will be needed per annum to make the plant pay, it could well begin taking waste from other counties. This has occurred in other areas of the country and there is a strong suspicion that it would happen here too. As one of Veolia’s representatives said to a local resident at one of the public meetings in March, to make this new incinerator cost-effective the company would be prepared to take waste from ‘anyone, anywhere’. Could that even mean outside the UK?
Veolia is also trying to justify the development by saying it will generate reusable heat. Where exactly? The site is in an isolated rural area with no foreseeable use for the heat. It is surrounded by farmland and is only 1km from the South Downs National Park boundary. Operating 24/7 with constant lighting and traffic will have a negative impact on all who enjoy this protected space, including its designation as the world’s 13th International Dark Sky Reserve.
Everyone who believes in recycling and decarbonisation, must help oppose this development. Independent information can be found on ukwin.org.uk. And updates and background information on the No Wey Incinerator campaign are available on www.noweyincinerator.com.
TV presenter Phil Spencer has given the No Wey Incinerator campaign his total backing, saying, ‘This is a very serious issue for all of us who love and live in our special little patch of Hampshire.
‘The proposed development is clearly in the wrong location: a 40m high building with 80m high chimneys is massively out of character and disproportionately large for the rural Wey Valley.
‘The noise and light pollution will destroy the peaceful environment. And not only are we faced with three years of works building such a huge incinerator, once it starts operating it will run 24/7, and be fed by 100’s of HGVs ploughing their way up and down the A31, creating their own pollution.
‘Aside from all of this, it is simply wrong to burn 000s of tonnes of commercial waste, sending 000s of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, in a rural location when that waste is not generated locally.’