EA draft permit response - South Hams Friends of the Earth

Ashburton Road
Re: DRAFT Determination of an Application for an Environmental Permit under the Environmental
Permitting (England & Wales) Regulations 2010
Permit Number: EPR/LP3936KF
Viridor Waste Management Limited
New England Quarry, Lee Mill, Nr Ivybridge, Devon.
Response on behalf of South Hams Friends of the Earth
Dear sir/madam,
1.It is very disappointing to discover that, in spite of all the rhetoric about, “creating a better place”,
and the warnings about climate change, the Environment Agency has, once again, failed in its duty
to protect the environment and is granting an Environmental Permit (albeit draft) to an incinerator.
1.1 Given that you have never refused to grant an EP to an incinerator, a fact which is deeply
shocking, we probably shouldn’t be surprised. However, such a lax attitude towards dangerous and
outmoded technologies, the lack of real scrutiny of need and alternative solutions on your part and
your inability to look beyond the waste companies’ polish suggests incompetence at the very least.
1.2 Although you say in the draft decision document “our mind remains open at this stage” you
continue with “we are minded to grant the Permit to the Applicant”. Such cosy language; the Royal
we. It suggests it’s OK. We are in the hands of an organisation that cares for our well-being. We
can’t possibly be talking about anything bad happening can we?
1.3 Well, maybe just a little damage to the environment. Climate change is real and there’s not a lot
we can do to stop it, but we might be able to mitigate some of the more damaging consequences
such as “extreme events, for example heavy rainfall causing flooding of communities, or
infrastructure damage during a bad storm” From EA website. Prudent use of resources and energy
efficiency are other concerns, but we can only progress if the agency charged with protecting the
environment does its job.
1.4 If you continue to grant Environmental Permits to incinerators, especially incinerators which
have no market for the heat produced as is the case for this incinerator, you do nothing to mitigate
climate change and valuable resources will simply go up in smoke. It’s time to redeem yourselves
and refuse this EP.
2. Waste management strategies appear to be driven by the waste industry itself using what it
perceives to be the most appropriate technology. As these industries are profit driven, they are
probably not acting in the public interest. The waste industry says it will not burn recyclable
materials, but it is up to the Local Authorities to ensure the collection of those recycling materials. If
collection of recyclables is not adequate the incinerator operator rubs his hands with glee because a
nice, co-mingled, high calorific waste stream will be heading his direction. More finite resources get
wasted and, in the case of this incinerator, the heat goes up the chimney.
2.1 Planning Authorities look to you as the stewards of the environment to help provide a clear steer
in adopting a strategic overview concerning waste management, but you fail to do this. Instead you
deal with applications separately with no perceivable sense of a general framework and you accept
the waste industry’s spin.
2.2 There are so many things wrong with siting an incinerator in the New England Quarry that it is
difficult to know where to begin, but perhaps the best starting point is your own description of the
“installation” (since the inception of the Turner Prize the word takes on a different meaning to
“4.1.3 What the Installation does
The Applicant has described the facility as Energy from Waste. Our view is that for the
purposes of WID and EPR, the installation is an incinerator because:
• The waste is the principal source of fuel.
• The facility will only produce electricity with the potential for using heat in the future but no
material product,
• The waste to be burned is mixed waste comprising municipal and commercial and
industrial materials,
• The waste will not be treated to improve its quality to any relevant standard. “
2.3 I’m pleased that you call it an incinerator for that is indeed what it is, and as such it is wasteful of
resources, unnecessary and damaging to the environment. The beast will produce heat, but there’s
no use for this heat; nonetheless, you think this is OK. No heat recovery is the worst possible WID
2.4 Poor energy efficiency costs UK businesses £6 billion a year, according to your website, yet you
are content to condone this waste of energy with a mere condition to re-examine the market for heat
every two years. I am astounded by this.
2.5 Article 6(6) of the WID, requires that heat “shall be recovered as far as practicable”. This
abdication of your responsibility to the environment and to the WID by approving an incinerator
which will not recover heat is inexcusable. Not daunted, you phrased your abdication thus:
“We consider that, within the constraints of the location of the Installation explained
above, the Installation will recover heat as far as practicable, and therefore that the
requirements of Article 6(6) are met”
2.6 This is staggeringly incompetent. Section 6 of your draft decision document continues:
“The SGN and the WID both require that, as well as maximising the primary use of heat to
generate electricity, waste heat should be recovered as far as practicable, i.e. by identifying
and utilising opportunities for Combined Heat and Power (CHP) and district heating. The
location of the Installation largely determines the extent to which waste heat can be utilised,
and this is a matter for the planning authority. The Applicant carried out a feasibility study,
which showed there was potential to provide district heating to local businesses; suitable
opportunities are being explored, though there are no firm commitments at this stage. There
is provision within the design of the steam turbine to extract low-grade steam for a district
heating scheme. Establishing such a network to supply local users would involve significant
technical, financial and planning challenges such that this is not seen as a practicable
proposition at present.
The WID guidance also states that opportunities to maximise the potential for heat recovery
should be considered at the early planning stage, when sites are being identified for
incineration facilities”.
2.7 In other words the Planning authority has the duty to find the right sites, but if they choose the
wrong ones it’s nothing to do with you. The Waste Operator will provide all the information and you
will not question any of it. Once again I am flabbergasted. You have the power to say that this is not
acceptable. Your allowing a Planning Authority to proceed with a site which is unsuitable for heat
recovery is totally environmentally irresponsible. Condoning a poor planning decision by issuing an
EP compounds this irresponsibility.
3. The lack of a coherent approach to waste incineration by the Environment Agency is very
apparent here in the South West. We seem to have incinerators springing up all over the place, but
we don’t know what we can feed them with.
3.1 Defra’s figures for waste arisings in Devon would indicate that waste is reducing generally. The
Defra survey of C&I waste published in 2010 has revised downwards the amount of C&I waste
produced in Devon dramatically from 850,000 tonnes to almost half that amount at 470,000 tonnes
and of this 57% was recycled. This means that there will not be enough waste for this facility to
3.2 If you take the Devonport incinerator into account (and this PFI funded incinerator of course
locks the local waste authority into a disastrous 25 year contract with penalty clauses if not enough
waste is delivered) there will not be enough waste to burn without either affecting recycling rates
significantly or importing waste from further away. How far away we do not know, because so many
incinerators will be competing for the same waste streams.
3.3 Transporting waste long distances could be a direct consequence of your granting too many
Environmental Permits. You seem to wilfully ignore the consequences of your actions suggesting
that siting facilities is a planning matter not an EP matter. Rubbish!
3.4 The waste operator uses the Environment Agency’s Permit as a seal of environmental approval.
You have an obligation to scrutinise the plans with the perspective of a Public Body, responsible to
Government, aiming to protect and improve the environment and encourage sustainable
development. You are not to roll over and have your collective tummy tickled by Viridor.
4. It seem that you have swallowed Viridor’s line that there will be no damage to the environment,
especially to the Dartmoor SAC and the Plymouth Sound and Estuaries SAC, caused by the
construction or operation of this incinerator, and you haven’t considered SSSIs because they are
more than 2k away. This conclusion is incredible. Air pollution from this incinerator’s operation and
construction, transport of waste from who knows where will have an adverse effect on the
environment, and on people. The effects will be compounded when studied in combination with
other facilities (for example the Devonport incinerator) which have not been modelled and which you
have not considered.
4.2 This refusal to accept environmental damage even extends to agreeing that the incinerator will
cause no damage to the habitats of various species. Once again I find your conclusions incredible.
I urge you to again consider the bat population whose foraging grounds and roosts will be
destroyed, and to remember as you do that you are the Environment Agency. There are Greater
Horseshoe Bats roosting within the application site, and foraging areas for these and numerous
species of other bats will be disturbed or destroyed by the building of the incinerator.
4.1 The River Yealm also provides a significant foraging resource for common Pipistrelle and Myotis
bats while also supporting a range of other species; this feature is also likely to be a significant
commuting route for bats well beyond the context of the site itself, linking several areas of woodland
to the north and south. These protected roosts and foraging areas are under threat or will be
destroyed by the incinerator.
4.2 The threats to the River Yealm, which I have mentioned before in a previous response to you,
really have not been adequately addressed. Increased rainfall and flooding events caused by
climate change could mean that the attenuation ponds will be inadequate for the purpose. Water
run-off into the River Yealm during construction as well as from the realigned access road is still a
potential threat, especially as the Yealm runs into the Plymouth Sound SAC.
4.3 The operators of the planned incinerator in Plymouth say they need a huge amount of water,
some 36,000,000 litres of pure water per annum. Apparently Viridor will collect all the water they
need from rain water harvesting. I wonder whether this is possible. There is no water facility on site
capable of providing that amount of water and if climate change results in less rain fall there may be
more threats to the River Yealm due to water abstraction. Have you considered this?
5. The presence of naturally occurring asbestos (Viridor 13 SLR Ref: 407-0036-00463/SCR New
England Quarry Resource Recovery Centre – EfW EP Application: Site Condition Report February
2011) and the resultant potential pollution caused to the River Yealm by emptying the quarry void
and clearing the site does not seem to be mentioned in your draft Permit.
Many local people have spent considerable amounts of time and energy for several years, unpaid,
discussing, understanding and responding to planning and EP applications. We have had to learn
the systems, wade through documents and inform ourselves and others in order to exercise our
democratic rights to have a say. In the end our efforts are thwarted by big business and our own
lack of time and money. The prospect of the Environment Agency endorsing the validity of our
arguments and doing the right thing is ever present. Now is your opportunity. Refuse this
Environmental Permit.
Yours faithfully,
Kate Wilson,
Joint coordinator
South Hams Friends of the Earth