Planning permission granted on appeal for Wiltshire Energy from Waste facility

Energy From Waste

Inspector Stephen Normington has today granted planning permission on appeal for a new single line, moving grate EfW facility at Westbury, Wiltshire. The new facility will have the capacity to recover energy from up to c.243,000 tonnes of residual waste per year, and will export c.25.6MW of electricity to the grid with the option to also provide heat to local users.

The main issues on the appeal related to the climate change impacts of the Proposal and the consistency of the Proposal with national and local policy.

On climate change, the Inspector accepted that the lifetime carbon assessment put forward by the Appellant (Northacre Renewable Energy Ltd) was realistic and conservative. The EfW facility was likely to result in a net decrease over its lifetime in the GHG emissions associated with the management of waste in the Wiltshire area and wider sub-region (DL 123, 235). Although there were inherent uncertainties when modelling relative GHG emissions across a period of 25 years (such as in relation to projected grid decarbonisation rates or changes in waste composition), and these impacted on the weight to be given to benefits, the evidence of the Appellant showed that the proposal would result in lower GHG emissions compared to landfill over its lifetime and this was sufficient to demonstrate that the development was in keeping with the aims of the development plan and NPPF (DL 253).

The Inspector rejected arguments made by the County Council to the effect that the waste plan was out of date (which had not been raised by or before members), or that there was no need for the development. In concluding that there was need for the development he took account of the targets set by the Environment Improvement Plan for the reduction of residual waste arisings.

In relation to an argument that the construction of an EfW facility which would rely on a waste market that included areas outside of the County was in conflict with the waste management principles of self-sufficiency and proximity, he found as follows:

  1. In addition to the definition provided in The Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011, paragraph 152 of the DEFRA publication ‘Energy from waste A guide to the debate’ provides guidance on the definition of the proximity principle which arises from Article 16, “Principles of self-sufficiency and proximity”, of the revised Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC). This advises that the “principle is often over-interpreted to mean that all waste has to be managed as close to its source as possible to the exclusion of other considerations, and that local authorities individually need the infrastructure required to do so. This is not the case.  Indeed, the final part of the Article itself states: “The principles of proximity and self-sufficiency shall not mean that each Member State has to possess the full range of final recovery facilities within that Member State”.  Clearly if not even the entire country needs to have the full range of facilities, a specific local authority does not have to.  While there is an underlying principle of waste being managed close to its source, there is no implication of local authorities needing to be self-sufficient in handling waste from their own area.”
  2. Paragraph 154 goes on to say: “…There is nothing in the legislation or the proximity principle that says accepting waste from another council, city, region or country is a bad thing and indeed in many cases it may be the best economic and environmental solution and/or be the outcome most consistent with the proximity principle…” Paragraph 155 continues: “…in some circumstances a larger plant may be the appropriate solution and there can be benefits from these also. For example: greater efficiencies; economies of scale … an overemphasis on restricting facilities to ‘local waste’, particularly defining it by administrative ownership of waste and the boundaries and quantities this implies, can lead to sub-optimal solutions in terms of cost, efficiency and environmental impact; and a significant loss of long-term flexibility.
  3. Paragraph 156 states that “The ability to source waste from a range of locations/organisations helps ensure existing capacity is used effectively and efficiently and importantly helps maintain local flexibility to increase recycling without resulting in local overcapacity for residual waste. For an existing plant, taking waste from a range of locations should be seen as a positive by keeping the plant running at maximum efficiency. In many places waste from a number of authorities is processed at the same site very successfully.”
  4. Therefore, I concur with the views of the Appellant in this regard that, as a matter of fact, simply by virtue of managing residual waste which is likely to include waste from sources outside of Wiltshire’s administrative area, the appeal proposal does not fall foul of the ‘proximity principle’. In my view, the Council are mindful of a flexible application of the proximity principle as residual waste is currently transported to the Lakeside EfW in Slough and arisings from the MBT are sent to mainland Europe.”

The Inspector made a partial award of costs against the County Council in relation to their reliance on an unrealistic comparator as part of their carbon assessment, and their argument that the development plan was out of date.

A copy of the decision can be found here.

David Elvin KC and Matthew Dale-Harris represented the Appellant at the inquiry.

Christopher Boyle KC represented Wiltshire County Council.

Joel Semakula made submissions on behalf of Wiltshire Town Council.

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