How did we get here?

A series of errors, planning creep, conflicts of interest and somehow, improved recycling rates

It may confuse you as to how we ended up with an incinerator when recycling rates have been going up, and at a rate that is quicker expected. Us too. Here’s a brief timeline that tries to shed some light on how it happened.


Gent Fairhead (GF) was granted planning permission for the Integrated Waste Management Facility (IWMF) at Rivenhall following an appeal and SoS (Secretary of State) inspection. This was conditional,with the SoS adding some 60 limits on the facility  including size, design freezes prior to construction, stack height, geographic limits and plume visibility


A planning extension of two years was applied for and one year granted. In the same year the ‘geographic limits’ were removed by ECC with Anaerobic Digestion (AD) and Mechanically and Biologically Treated Waste (MDT) contracts awarded elsewhere

February 2016

The capacities were changed reducing AD and MBT treated waste by 60% and increasing incineration to 595,000 Tonnes per annum (TPA)

March 2016

Construction started with the design frozen (stack at 35m Above Ordnance Datum (AOD)

December 2016

The EA permit was refused based on the initial design and a stack of 35m AOD but with the revisited capacities: this was the first time the EA had been officially engaged on the incinerator


A new EA permit was applied for – based on a 55m AOD stack. This was increased to 58m AOD during the application period

June 2017

A scoping opinion was issued by ECC based on the indications from the new permit application that the stack will require and increase to 58M AOD. This was responded to by ECC with conditions and guidance listing the areas that the applicant should address in their planning application

July 2017

GF applied for a planning change of the conditions known as condition 59 that limits the stack to 35m AOD, but at the same time the applicant had not complied with the scoping opinion. GF also applied for planning permission to increase the stack height to 58m AOD

September 2017

It was announced in the financial press that the banks providing financial support to the applicant had conducted due diligence on the scheme and subsequently withdrawn their funding

September 2017

The EA permit was granted but with a 58m stack contravening the 2010 SoS conditions

April 2018

In April, PAIN submitted our report to the ECC Planning Committee: Rivenhall IWMF: A case for refusal though evidence and analysis.

November 2018

GF responded to the PAIN report and applied for a new EA permit similar to the one already refused by the EA in 2017 to operate the incinerator with a reduced stack height of 35m AOD but with better technology (this technology is not proposed for the 58m high stack…). GF also announced their new operator: Indaver.

January 2019

GF and Indaver carried out the first public consultation events since the last planning decision in 2010.

April 2019

Essex County Council refused planning permission for a 58m high stack citing:

That planning permission be refused for ESS/36/17/BTE & ESS/37/17/BTE for the following reasons:
1. The proposed development would cause (less than substantial) harm to the setting of a listed building as the development does not preserve the setting of Woodhouse Farm, a Grade II listed building, contrary to S66 (1) of the Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas Act 1990 and it is considered that there are no material considerations to override the statutory presumption against granting planning permission for the development. The unacceptable adverse impact would be contrary to the NPPF, Policy 10 of the Essex and Southend Waste Local Plan 2017, Braintree Core Strategy (2011) policy CS9 and Braintree District Local Plan Review (2005) policy RLP100
2. It has not been demonstrated that the increase in stack height and the use of the reflective materials would not have an unacceptable impact on the quality and character of the landscape, countryside and visual environment contrary to the NPPF, Policy 10 of the Essex & Southend Waste Local Plan 2017, Braintree Core Strategy (2011) policy CS8 and Braintree District Local Plan Review (2005) policy RLP80.
3. It has not been demonstrated that there is a need for the waste treatment capacity of the IWMF, in Essex and Southend-on-Sea, beyond those shortfalls identified in Policy 1 of the Waste Local Plan and as such would be, likely to give rise to waste not being managed in accordance with the principles of the Waste Hierarchy, of achieving net self-sufficiency for waste management in Essex and Southend-on-Sea and the Proximity Principle, contrary to the NPPW and would undermine the strategic objectives of the Essex and Southend Waste Local Plan 2017. Planning is separate to the decision-making process of the EA and vice-versa. However, it is the responsibility of the EA to act to protect the Environment incinerator I the open countryside, being fed by 595,000 tones of waste- all of it imported by road and from outside the country is on of the reasons PAIN is taking action.

January 2020

The EA announces it is ‘minded to permit’ GF’s application to operate the incinerator with a 35m AOD stack and give the public 4 weeks to review and respond.

June 2020

The Environment Agency announces it has decided to grant a permit to GF and Indaver to operate one of the largest incinerators at 595,000 TPA with the shortest stack height permitted for an incinerator. PAIN begin the process of reviewing the decision and exploring legal options.

July 2020

PAIN submitted a pre Pre Action Protocol (PAP) to the Environment Agency. The directors have determined that PAIN should proceed to stage 1 of the judicial review process.

August 2020

PAIN instructed lawyers to mount a judicial review. Stage 1 of of the judicial review process has begun.

October 2020

PAIN raised £30,000 from donations from the immediately impacted communities to pay for the Stage One of the Judicial Review. The judgement was given on the 17th of October. Please see our press release for more information.