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Parties rally against Chieveley incinerator

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Councillor stands down from planning role to fight residents' corner

POLITICAL parties in West Berkshire have denounced plans by waste firm Grundon to build a new incineration plant in Chieveley, capable of burning enough industrial and household waste to power 50,000 homes.

Grundon has submitted a request for a scoping opinion to West Berkshire Council for a proposed energy from waste facility capable of processing 350,000 tonnes of waste each year at Old Kiln Quarry, east of Chieveley Services.

The scoping opinion request, which is merely the initial stage of a comprehensive process ahead of a full planning application, prompted fury from residents at a parish council meeting last Tuesday, and today (Monday), the issue turned political as rival parties united in criticising the proposals.

The Liberal Democrat shadow executive member for the environment, Royce Longton (Burghfield) said his party was concerned that the incinerator was unnecessary and the health risks surrounding its construction were still not clear.

“We should do all we can to recover energy from waste that can not be reused or recycled. But mass burn incinerators of the type proposed here emit dioxins into the atmosphere, and the jury is still out as to whether these compounds give rise to cancer and other health risks,” he said.

Mr Longton added that the location of the facility was totally at odds with the objective of preserving the landscape and natural environment within the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

West Berkshire Labour Party spokesman Richard Garvie asked for more information to be made available on the matter, including the possibility that the incinerator may only be used to burn waste from other areas of the country.

"My main concern would be that there is a chance none of the waste produced here in West Berkshire will even go to the site. This means that lorry after lorry heading into the site will potentially be from other parts of the country.”

He called on the West Berkshire Conservative administration and the MP for Newbury, Richard Benyon, to step in and halt the proposals.

The Green Party parliamentary prospective candidate for Newbury, Adrian Hollister, said: "Why anyone would want to pollute West Berkshire with additional CO2, toxins and ash is beyond me - the residents of Chieveley and the downlands area of north Berkshire have my complete support rejecting this idea.

“The rebranding of incineration of waste to environmentally friendly power production is a misnomer - Greens oppose incineration because rather than eliminate waste it encourages waste production and in the process creates dangerous, health threatening toxic by-products, which then have to be dumped.

“Good waste prevention and minimisation would eliminate the need for this facility."

Ward member for Chieveley, Hilary Cole (Con), who is also the West Berkshire Council portfolio holder for the environment, has said she will stand down as a member of the West Berkshire Council Western Area Planning Committee for this item when it goes in front of the committee in order to go to bat for the residents in her constituency.

“My residents have elected me to fight things like this and I feel I would fail them if I didn't nail my colours to the mast, she said. "I have to state my opinion and come out and support my residents as strongly as I can.

“It would appear to me that there is no need for such a facility, and that it falls within the North Wessex Downs AONB would mean there has to be a very strong justification it. Grundon would also have to prove there is a strong local need, but this goes beyond that.”

Mrs Cole said it was also important to note the request to extend the gravel and sand extraction arm could be problematic as the site has not been restored to agricultural land and woodland, as required by the terms of the existing planning permission.

Similar Grundon waste sites, such as the Colnbrook incinerator in Slough, handle commercial waste, hospital waste, and radioactive materials.

The Chieveley facility would include two 85m flues, almost twice the height of the BT tower in Newbury, which stands at 44m.

Architects have also sketched designs for three oval buildings 47m in height and other waste reception and handling facilities.

The site is within the North Wessex Downs AONB and is due to be restored to agricultural land and woodland under the terms of the existing planning permission for gravel extraction.

The purpose of the scoping opinion is for the district council to set out what it thinks should be included in the Environmental Statement that will be required to accompany the planning application under the EIA Regulations as the proposal is likely to have significant environmental effects.

Grundon said it is preparing a response to many of the points raised.

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