NORTHACRE Renewable Energy has urged Wiltshire Council to decide its application to change the technology for its energy from waste incinerator at Westbury.

The joint venture company between Swindon-based Hills Group and Bioenergy Infrastructure Group has welcomed the significant endorsement of its proposals by Wiltshire Council’s planning department, whose report will be considered by Wiltshire Council’s Strategic Planning Committee on Tuesday.

Planners have recommended that the proposed change in technology used by the already-permitted facility at Northacre Industrial Park in Westbury, be approved by councillors.

NREL has applied to install moving grate combustion rather than advanced thermal treatment technology, which protesters say will lead to more air pollution from toxic waste.

Alex Young, NREL director, said: “The Northacre facility is an important local project and we are pleased that our application has been recommended for approval.

“We also believe strongly that as an important local matter, that it be decided on locally, by Wiltshire’s elected representatives and we look forward to the committee’s decision.”

The company says the Northacre facility is strategically important to Wiltshire’s sustainable future and represents a £200 million investment in the local economy and a new source of employment including many highly-skilled permanent roles.

It says the facility addresses the pressing need for a sustainable long-term solution to non-recyclable residual waste in Wiltshire, by reducing landfill’s contribution to climate change.

A report published by Tolvik Consulting in May 2020, outlines that the ‘UK generates over 70,000 tonnes of residual waste per day’ or over 25 million tonnes of waste per year, which cannot be recycled.

Mr Young added: “In 2019, 13.9 tonnes of residual waste was treated in UK energy from waste facilities. This means that over 11 million tonnes was either landfilled or exported to Europe as fuel for similar EfW facilities - adding thousands of additional vehicle miles each year and generating unnecessary pollution. These are not acceptable or sustainable options.”

NREL estimates that the facility will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 58,000 tonnes per annum when considered against the alternative of landfilling, which is why UK Government policy continues to support the development of EfW facilities, as part of the country’s path to a net zero-carbon economy.

This point was underlined in Wiltshire Council’s legal opinion of the proposed development, published ahead of the committee meeting, which states “Government policy is to move to zero landfill, and EfW treatment of residual waste to recover energy from that waste is part of the armoury of measures which are to be deployed.”

This policy reflects the fact that the UK has a significant shortage of EfW capacity and facilities operating in neighbouring counties, are already functioning at full capacity.

The legal opinion provided by Wiltshire Council added: “EfW is a low carbon energy source and a waste management process encouraged by policy and for which there is a continuing need”.

The Northacre facility will turn 243,000 tonnes of the region’s commercial and industrial residual waste into low carbon energy – enough to power 48,000 homes and improve the resilience of the local electricity supply network.

Whilst concerns over air quality, emissions and pollution control have been raised by local residents, a UK-wide study commissioned by Public Health England and the Scottish Government found “no conclusive links to health effects from waste incinerators”.

That conclusion was based on data gathered from 22 sites across the UK by researchers at Imperial College London’s Small Area Health Statistics Unit (SAHSU).

In a media statement issued by Imperial following the release of the study, Professor Anna Hansell, Director of the Centre for Environmental Health and Sustainability at the University of Leicester, who previously led the work while at Imperial College London, said: “Modern and well-regulated incinerators are likely to have a very small, or even undetectable, impact on people living nearby.”

Mr Young added: “We believe that it is our responsibility to develop the best possible project and, if granted permission, we would have an opportunity to build a state-of-the-art facility which allows Wiltshire to play its part in providing a sustainable solution to a pressing waste and energy challenge in the region, whilst delivering environmental and economic benefits to the county.”