Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Campaign to Protect Rural England

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Defending the countryside at the Waterbeach waste incinerator inquiry

Thursday, 14 November 2019 15:12

Proposed waste incinerator at Waterbeach Proposed waste incinerator at Waterbeach

A new industrial landmark in the fenland landscape is one reason branch chairman Alan James has given for opposing the development of a massive waste incinerator at Waterbeach.

The energy-to-waste incinerator, planned by AmeyCespa, is the subject of a public inquiry being held at Shire Hall in Cambridge. Alan made his statement at the inquiry in his role as chairman of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

We also have concerns about the waste incinerator's impact on:

  • The health and wellbeing of the local community
  • Climate change
  • Light pollution
  • Soil pollution

We feel energy-from-waste incineration—the burning of household and business waste to generate energy—is an out-dated technology which no longer has a place in a zero-waste economy.

County council and CPRE objection

In September 2018, Cambridgeshire County Council refused planning permission for the energy-from-waste facility on the grounds of its landscape and heritage impacts. However, AmeyCespa’s appeal has resulted in a planning inquiry which began on 5 November 2019.

We had formally objected to the initial planning application on the grounds that the visual impact on the surrounding countryside of such an enormous structure would be unacceptable.  The main building will have a floor area 2.6 times that of Ely Cathedral. The structure’s 80-metre high chimney stack will be 20% higher than the south tower of the cathedral and nearly four times as high as the main roof of the cathedral. We said that the incinerator’s proximity to Denny Abbey, site of a Benedictine Abbey founded in the 12th century, was of particular significance. 

In his statement to the public inquiry, branch chairman Alan James said, “If this appeal succeeds, the structure would dwarf every other building in Fenland – including Ely Cathedral”. He added, “The 80-metre high chimney with its polluting exhaust plume would be clearly visible for miles across the surrounding low-level fenland”. 

In a letter to the planning inspectorate earlier this year, we reiterated our objections and questioned how polluting emissions from an energy-from-waste facility would be consistent with a responsible approach to climate change and human health.

"We recognise this is a very difficult decision because the County Council is responsible for the management of waste disposal in this area. They will have to look for other practical and cost-effective alternatives but people, our environment, our heritage, our landscape and our unique fen-edge countryside must come first”.

Alternatives to incineration

Waste processing and recycling technology is advancing rapidly and local universities are heavily involved in researching and developing those less carbon-intensive technologies which will make the incineration of ‘residual waste’ unnecessary. 

We believe that AmeyCespa’s approach—burning valuable materials—is outdated. We would like to see AmeyCespa expand their existing education facilities into a Waste Management Science Park, where new technologies and techniques can be researched, developed, piloted and scaled up to production capacities, all on the one site.

"This could be a world class facility that everyone would applaud AmeyCespa for, rather than being the modern equivalent of a coal-burning tramp ship of the Fens.”

Our Chairman, Alan James, spoke to about 300 people at an outdoor public meeting in Wisbech on a wet and cold day back in February:


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