On Friday 12 January, Witham MP Priti Patel chaired a public meeting for the community to find out more about the incinerator being built in the heart of Essex.
More than 140 people turned out for the meeting and expressed concerns that a facility would be approved by Essex County Council that was only agreed in 2010 on a number of conditions that no longer exist. Many of the people who attended included parents who are concerned about the health impact and how it will affect the communities.
The plant was originally approved in 2010 for a chimney height of 35m and to burn 360,000 tonnes of waste a year, but since then there has been planning creep, increasing the incineration levels to 595,000 tonnes a year. The latest planning applications would increase the chimney height to 58m, taller than an electricity pylon. Professional planner Tony Collins said the applicant had taken an approach of incrementalism.
The Chair of Parishes Against Incinerator (PAIN), Nick Unsworth, presented projections on how the plume would affect all of the local communities including Colchester, Braintree, Marks Tey, Witham and Kelvedon – it won’t just impact the villages within a couple of miles.
A local school governor expressed concern that there will be a huge number of lorries on the roads, bringing in the waste to supply the facility. These lorries could be coming and going from the whole of the south of England, meaning it will even affect areas outside of Essex. A retired chemical engineer said he believed “it is the wrong facility in the wrong place” and the infrastructure is not in place to support the incinerator.
Members of the audience called for a new approach to the way in which we process waste, that would future proof long-term waste policy and can respond to changes as required – this is something that the incinerator would not do.
An award-winning local honey producer supplied in every East of England Co-op store, Great Tilkey Honey, provided a statement that was read saying they have an apiary within a mile of the proposed facility and can store 20-25 hives on this land – they are very concerned the incinerator will “have an adverse effect on the health of their bees”.
Frustration was expressed that other local MPs including James Cleverly and Will Quince have not been involved in the campaign, despite constituents contacting them asking for their support.
The campaign so far has helped to organise thousands of objections to the consultations on the Environment Agency permit and the latest planning applications and it is gathering momentum, particularly as the applicants are refusing to engage with the community. Whether Essex County Council decide to listen to the people they represent is something many were sceptical of, so many members of the audience committed to putting more pressure on the committee that will be making the decision.