Incinerator green-light sparks protest

CAMPAIGNERS have hit out at the Government's backing for Suffolk's plans to build a controversial waste incinerator and to grant the county council more than £100m for the project.

Graham Dines

CAMPAIGNERS have hit out at the Government's backing for Suffolk's plans to build a controversial waste incinerator and to grant the county council more than £100m for the project.

After a junior minister praised the county council for “rising to the challenge” in the battle to increase recycling and cut the amount of refuse sent to landfill, it was confirmed that the scheme to burn rubbish and turn it into electricity, would go out to tender in the next few weeks.

Suffolk has allocated the transport depot at Great Blakenham for the incinerator, although tenderers will have the option of choosing another site in the county, subject to planning permission.

The Government award of £102m in private finance credits was announced yesterday by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and is one of four incinerators approved for England.

Total cost of building and operating the incinerator over the 30 years of its expected working life is £612million and is Suffolk's solution to Government requirements to reduce landfill and to meet tough European Union recycling targets for tackling global warming.

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Eddie Alcock, the county's portfolio holder for waste, said the Government's support for the incinerator vindicated Suffolk's approach to tackling the rising amount of household refuse. “The Government would not have given the go-ahead unless it had been sure that the incinerator would not pump harmful emissions into the atmosphere.”

Waste sent to the incinerator from the seven districts of the county will be turned into electricity which will be used to generate power to neighbouring homes and businesses.

Bryn Griffiths, Suffolk's assistant director for environment said: “We will be publishing a notice in the Official Journal of the European Union to alert interested companies. The substantial subsidy demonstrates that the Government has confidence in our plans to divert waste away from environmentally damaging solution of burying Suffolk's waste at landfill sites.”

Junior environment minister Joan Ruddock said the incinerators would help in the drive towards “minimisation, recycling and waste diversion. A combination of these activities is essential in our drive to tackle climate change.”

However, the funding was labelled “another nail in the coffin of democracy" by Peter Welham, coordinator of pressure group SAIL (Suffolk Against Incineration and Landfill).

“That the county council pressed ahead with the bid is a clear indication that, regardless of what they claim about consultation and public involvement, its mind is made up It is clear that the only way of getting this matter thoroughly debated is via a public inquiry.”

Labour councillor Sandy Martin, who declined to criticise his own Government for supporting the project, said: “£100 million is a lot of money, but it just a sixth of the total cost of building and operating the incinerator that the county Conservatives are planning.

“If just a fraction of that amount was put into reducing the amount of waste we produce in the first place, recycling more of the waste we do produce, and treating the residue with anaerobic digestion or other technologies, then we wouldn't need an incinerator.”

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