By Gemma Childe on 6th Jul 2012
Plans to build incinerators that convert waste into energy that could generate enough electricity for 78,000 homes have been given the green light - despite controversy over possible health problems.
Norfolk County Council councillors voted this week to approve one incinerator after years of disputes, which has ended in an intervention by communities secretary Eric Pickles, who has given the plans the go ahead.
The facilities are both PFI schemes, in Leicestershire and Norfolk. The first, in King’s Lynn, would process up to 268,000 tonnes of waste annually, and generate electricity sufficient for 36,000 homes.
The project is jointly managed by Cory Environmental and US incineration manufacturer Wheelabrator, which the Council claims will save £200m on landfill fees over its lifetime.
Objectors have voiced concerns which ranged from environmental threats, health issues and the negative effect on recycling.
Councillor Bill Borrett, the member for environment and waste, said: "I believe that this proposal has been subjected to the most intensive scrutiny, by the planning process, the public, the Environment Agency and Defra, which has approved the largest grant Norfolk has received for a single project.”
The facility must be given permission by The Environment Agency before it can begin operating.
A bigger incinerator, at Newhurst Quarry in Shepshed, Leicestershire, which was refused permission twice by the County Council, has also now been given the go ahead.
The £200m facility can burn up to 300,000 tonnes of municipal waste a year and generate enough energy for 42,000 homes.
The council says it plans to appeal against the decision.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) is conducting a study into the link between emissions from municipal waste incinerators (MWIs) and health problems, and there were calls to defer the Norfolk decision until the results are known, but this will not be until March 2014.
Based on research published in 2009, well run and regulated modern MWIs are not a significant risk to public health. The new study is being carried out to "extend the evidence base", and is examining possible health effects up to 10–15 kilometres from sites, including: low birth weight, still births and infant deaths.