EMOTIONS ran high as protestors against a waste incineration plant in Westbury said they do not trust either site operator Hills or the Environment Agency to keep the town safe and healthy if the scheme goes ahead.

Around 130 residents from all over the county attended the meeting, called by Westbury Town Council in response to mounting public concern about the plan to construct an advanced thermal treatment gasification plant, which will burn rubbish at the firm’s Northacre site.

Presentations from the Environment Agency, Friends of the Earth and Hills Waste were followed by a heated question time session.

Westbury resident Zoe Mann said: “I live by the site and drive past it twice a day.

“Hills are having fires regularly. I don’t know of any other business who are allowed to say ‘it’s part of the business, it happens and we can’t control it’.

“How are we supposed to trust them with monitoring this?”.

Warminster resident Simon Taylor said: “Can Hills ensure that materials that I separate out as being recyclable, in other words recoverable, will not end up in your incinerator.”

Many people seemed confused and unhappy by Hills’ responses, and Westbury mayor Cllr Gordon King, who was chairing the meeting, often had to step in to keep things in order.

Warminster resident and member of the South West Wilts Green Party, Harriet James, said: “Apart from particulate matter and other chemical pollutants released on the town, the Westbury plant would contribute CO2 to the atmosphere.

“Hills will argue that this is less damaging to the climate than landfill but neither incineration nor landfill are the solution.

“At the moment 30 per cent of Wiltshire’s household waste is burnt in an incinerator in Slough. This is what needs to be reduced by improving recycling and collecting food waste.”

Ed Dodd of Hills said: “You asked can you trust us, yes you can and we are not bending the rules.

“We have had in 2017 more fires in the waste mass than we have had ever before and we are investigating. We are not saying it’s normal.

“I cant confirm that what you separate out will not end up in the incinerator. If plastics or materials that you separate are contaminated, they will be taken in for incineration.”

Cllr King said: “We wanted to listen to and hear what people had to say, and they did not disappoint.

“This was a well argued debate on both sides where two underlying issues remain unresolved.

“The first is the extent to which we can trust the proposers to comply absolutely with the conditions of the permit and the EA to provide effective enforcement of those conditions.

“The second is the extent to which we can truly have confidence that the process of gasification is really the best available technique for dealing with residual waste and that it does not present a major long-term hazard to our health.

“What is clear is that sooner or later a tough decision must be made which will not satisfy everybody.”

Andy Hicklin from The Environment Agency explained the importance of a permit, and how the plant will not be able to operate without one, and that there will be a consultation period.

Ed Dodd from Hills confirmed its plans meet all the environmental and public health guidelines, and said it will be submitting an application for the permit in March.