Dismay as Government agrees incinerator plan
The Government has ordered the building of a new incinerator in Leicestershire – despite thousands of objection.
Since Biffa's proposals for an incinerator at Newhurst Quarry, in Shepshed, were first publicised in the Leicester Mercury three years ago, there have been a mass of objections from local residents and environment campaigners.
Leicestershire County Council twice refused Biffa permission for the £200million structure, which would burn up to 300,000 tonnes of household rubbish every year and generate enough energy to power 42,000 homes.
But after a two-week inquiry at Loughborough Town Hall last year the Secretary of State for Local Government, Eric Pickles, has overruled the county council.
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He wrote in his report that "no great weight" should be placed on concerns about the air quality or health, because emissions should be kept low.
In the report, Mr Pickles concluded the site was "very well placed" for an incinerator due to the nearby M1 and that the negative "impact on the appearance and character of the area" was outweighed by the benefits of having an incinerator to produce low-carbon energy and get rid of the region's rubbish. Campaigners have been left disappointed by the decision.
A spokesman for the Charnwood Against Incineration (ChAIn) said there was little hope of fighting the incinerator any further.
He said: "This is a most disappointing result. It would appear that despite bold rhetoric encouraging communities to "have their say", the Government really is not listening.
"It beggars belief that the inspector and Secretary of State have upheld Biffa's appeal against the planning decision. Recourse to the High Court is almost impossible to consider for a small community group like ChAIn."
Members of Leicester Friends of the Earth also campaigned against the incinerator.
Spokesman Malcolm Hunter said: "The Government decision is a great disappointment given that the levels of residual waste have actually been falling and this incinerator is not needed."
During the consultation period, the council received objections from 1,361 people who signed petitions and a further 2,039 who wrote letters opposing the incinerator.
A county council spokesman said: "We are disappointed that the local decision-making has been overturned and will now look carefully at the reasons why the Secretary of State agreed to approve these proposals before we can make any further comment."
Matthew O'Callaghan, Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Charnwood, who gave evidence to the inquiry, said: "I'm very disappointed. The new Localism Bill gives residents more say and more power but the Secretary of State has completely ignored it."
Conservative Matthew Blain, Charnwood Borough Council's cabinet member for planning, said the decision was too important to be made locally.
He said: "It's always frustrating when the local planning authority doesn't get to make the decision, but I think localism is alive and well.
"Decisions like this are part of the more strategic infrastructure and made at a higher level."