Councillors ‘unanimously’ reject incinerator plans

CONTROVERSIAL plans for a waste-to-energy plant in Swansea have been unanimously rejected by councillors.

Members of the planning committee spoke in turn to condemn or query Biffa Waste Services’s application.

The company wanted to build the incinerator at its site in Clarion Close, Swansea Enterprise Park, to avoid the need to transport commercial and trade waste from Swansea by lorry to a landfill site in Merthyr Tydfil, where it is buried.

It said the process of burning 21,000 tonnes of non-hazardous waste per year would generate electricity and, potentially, heating for commercial properties nearby.

No statutory bodies, such as Natural Resources Wales, objected to the application and Swansea Council officers recommended the scheme for approval ahead of the May 7 meeting.

Objectors who crowded the Guildhall chamber, and some of whom held a protest at the site of the proposed incinerator earlier, were thrilled when the committee rejected the recommendation.

Dr Geraint Havard, outside the Guildhall – pic by Richard Youle

After the meeting, Geraint Havard, of Llansamlet, who had outlined the community’s objections inside the chamber, said: “The right decision has been made as far as the community is concerned.

“This was a big deal for us and we have shown, when we work together, what we can achieve.”

A spokeswoman for Biffa Waste Services said: “We’re disappointed with today’s decision and we will be reviewing our position and next steps over coming days.”

Dr Havard said he was anticipating the company would appeal, and added: “The fight is not over.”

Outlining the application at the meeting, a council planning officer said its own pollution control division did not believe “adverse health outcomes” were likely from the incinerator and its 25m chimney stack.

Swansea Bay University Health Board did not object, saying it agreed with a Public Health England stance on incinerators which said “any potential damage to the health of those living close by is likely to be very small, if detectable”.

This position statement, however, said it was not possible to rule out adverse health effects with complete certainty.

Addressing the committee, Dr Havard said there were more than 2,500 objections to Biffa’s application, and that the waste company should introduce hydrogen or electric-powered lorries if it wanted to benefit the environment.

Planning agent Mark Walton, on behalf of Biffa, said its current way of handling waste in Swansea was “not sustainable” and that the proposed incinerator was “good for society and good for the economy”.

Mr Walton said the plant would create 15 full-time jobs, adding to the 40 posts already at the site, and that a detailed air quality assessment had shown no adverse impacts on the area.

Llansamlet’s four councillors, and local schoolchildren, then lined up to criticise the application, with Cllr Alyson Pugh warning that some nearby YGG Lon Las parents would pull their children out of the school if the incinerator was built.

Cllr Ryland Doyle said all sources of commercial pollution were in the east of Swansea.

“This is a city with a huge health divide,” he said.

Cllr Mo Sykes described the incinerator as an “insult” given it was proposed alongside a nature reserve.

Council leader Rob Stewart then weighed in, saying he in no way criticised officers for doing their job, but that councillors were not bound by planning laws.

“Supporting this incinerator would be a retrograde step,” he said.

Committee member and councillor Des Thomas said: “I think this is one of the most difficult decisions this planning committee has had to make in a very long time.

“Nonetheless, we need to find a good planning reason (to object). We have listened to some very emotive concerns.

“The only planning reason I can see is the visual impact.”

After voting, this was the reason the committee gave for refusal.

Cllr Paulette Smith said people in the wider Llansamlet area had, in the past, put up with pollution because it meant jobs.

Indicating her objection, she said: “My generation has done enough damage to this Earth as it is.”

Referring to the health board’s stance, Cllr Peter Black said: “We cannot with any certainty be assured that this development is not going to have an impact on people nearby. We can only manage that risk.”

 
 

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