LEADING Liberal Democrats are calling for a a bid to build a waste incinerator near Westbury to be thrown out.

They want the local planning authority Wiltshire Council to back green technology to boost waste recycling instead.

Lib Dem environment and climate emergency spokesperson, Cllr Dr Brian Mathew is calling on Northacre Renewable Energy Ltd to withdraw its application.

The company, part of Swindon-based Hills Group, wants to build an a ‘thermal treatment plant’ on the Northacre Industrial Estate.

The firm gained permission for a gasification plant last year but now wants to change the technology to conventional incinerator.

Hundreds of people, along with town and parish councils, as well as South West Wiltshire MP Dr Andrew Murrison, have objected to the application.

The Lib Dem call comes as part of the party’s campaign for a green economic recovery plan to help Wiltshire bounce back from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr Mathew said: “It beggars belief that the current council’s Conservative leadership now seems be backing Northacre Energy’s plans to build a massive waste incinerator at Westbury.

“This is out of date and polluting technology. It would generate in the region of a quarter of a million tonnes of CO₂ each year and lock the county into it for the next 25 years.

“More than 60 per cent of the waste material burnt by this incinerator will be transported by road and rail creating more congestion, pollution and environmental damage.

“This incinerator, and the transportation it needs to bring in waste, will blow a huge hole in the Wiltshire Council aspiration of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

“It is not just the climate and environment that will be hit by the emissions from this incinerator if it goes ahead. Incinerators like this push into the air tonnes of very small highly toxic particles that drift on the wind for miles.

“They are a real threat to air quality and are a growing cause for concern to scientists, doctors and public health specialists alike as to their impact on human health.”

Dr Mathew said the county should switch to recycling non-recyclable plastics which make up much of the waste using the Swindon-based firm Recycling Technologies Ltd.

He added: “It could take pretty much all of the plastics that are currently unable to be mechanically recycled.”

Two years ago, Dr Mathew and his fellow Wiltshire councillors Gavin Grant and Ross Henning visited Recycling Technologies to see their prototype plant in Swindon.

Lib Dem shadow Wiltshire Council spokesperson on finance and economic development Gavin Grant said: “To see Wiltshire effectively lock itself into an out of date, climate damaging and polluting technology for the next 25 years, with all the CO₂ and poor air quality resulting, makes absolutely no sense.

“We need to see a green economic recovery and investment in sustainable technology and green jobs, not this abomination.

“Backing this incinerator and failing to support Recycling Technologies Ltd are both an abdication of responsibility.”

Wiltshire Lib Dem councillor for Westbury Gordon King added: “The building of this incinerator and its operation will clog local roads, pollute our air and damage the environment.

“If the company will not withdraw their plan, then I trust our councillor colleagues will have the good sense to throw it out. Westbury deserves better than this incinerator.”

A Wiltshire Council spokeswoman said: “The application is currently being assessed, including the numerous responses received from third parties, and will be considered in due course by the cross-party Strategic Planning Committee, which is made up of members from around the county.”

A spokeswoman for Northacre Renewable Energy said: “The moving grate combustion technology has been successfully and safely deployed across the UK and Europe for many years.

"This technology has been endorsed by the Committee for Climate Change, which in its Technical Report of May 2019 specifically called for greater private sector investment in energy from waste capacity in the UK as part of the country’s path to a zero-carbon economy.

"It is also an important investment in low-carbon energy at a time when the county of Wiltshire has declared a climate emergency.

"The Council statement regarding, when taken alongside the endorsement by the Committee on Climate Change, represents a significant policy development which we at NREL wholeheartedly support. The Northacre facility and other energy from waste plants are part of the solution.

“The Northacre facility will not hinder recycling efforts and is instead a solution to commercial, business and household residual waste – the black bag waste.

"These residual waste materials are typically sent to landfill for disposal or exported to Europe as fuel for similar energy from waste plants.

"The Northacre facility is designed to use this residual waste in a more positive way to produce low carbon energy for the UK national grid and reduce the amount of residual waste sent for disposal.

“Government strategy recognises that energy from waste is preferable to landfill in the waste hierarchy and that the export of waste that could be used as fuel does not contribute to UK energy targets and is effectively a lost resource to the UK. Therefore, we see no reason why our planning application should be withdrawn.

“The EA, who are responsible for granting an Environmental Permit, will only do so if they consider that operation of the facility will not have an unacceptable impact on the environment, or human health.

"The determination process will also include assessments of the operator’s competency, which include operating techniques, management systems and technical competence.

"In granting the permit, the EA will impose emission limits which the facility will be required to comply with throughout its life, but which will also be subject to review and revision in line with changing legislation or industry requirements during the life of the facility.

“Public Health England is one of the statutory bodies which are involved in both the planning and permitting of this type of facility.

"Their position has been informed by a number of on-going studies funded by government, with the most recent published in June 2019.

"PHE has repeatedly reported that it has not found a consistent or conclusive linkage between energy-from-waste plants and adverse human health. Accordingly, Government policy continues to support the development of energy-from-waste facilities.

“We are confident that the technology solution we have brought forward is safe, that the environmental impacts are well understood and will be scrutinised in full by the EA.

“In terms of traffic, all of the residual waste that would be treated at the Northacre facility is already being transported by road within Wiltshire and the wider area.

"The development of the Northacre facility would affect the pattern of travel of that waste. Whilst there is an increase in throughput tonnage and HGV numbers, the comparison of daily traffic flows shows no significant changes arising from the development, with the increases in general traffic on local roads all well below one per cent and specifically less than 0.1 per cent on the A350.”