Celebrations in St Albans as Hatfield incinerator plan is rejected

Cathy Roe, cllr Paul Zukowskyj

Cathy Roe, cllr Paul Zukowskyj - Credit: Archant

An ecstatic campaigner wanted to do a victory jig in the streets of St Albans after learning that the Government has extinguished plans for a controversial Green Belt incinerator.

And Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has won rare praise in the district after announcing on Tuesday that he has rejected Veolia’s proposed waste burner in New Barnfield.

His decision comes nearly two years after Herts county council moved residents to tears after snubbing 6,300 objections to approve the incinerator just over one mile from Colney Heath.

The council has already relocated Southfield School which caters for children with special needs, including pupils with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, from the site to make way for the construction.

But Mr Pickles refused the scheme, in line with recommendations from planning inspector David Richards, following a 22-day public inquiry on the burner, which would have processed 380,000 of rubbish including healthcare waste from care homes and veterinary services.

He said that at an estimated volume of 585,000 square metres, the infrastructure would have been almost 20 times the volume of existing buildings on the site.

Mr Pickles rejected the scheme on the grounds it would be inappropriate and cause substantial harm to the openness of the Green Belt. He also took into account the proximity of Hatfield House, a Grade 1 listed building.

Most Read

The incinerator’s 75m-high emission flues would have been seen up to 15km away, while a plume of condensed water vapour could have extended 253m across the sky.

Susan Salter, spokeswoman for Colney Heath Against Barnfield Incinerator, said: “This has made my day. I feel like dancing all over Colney Heath as I won’t be breathing in toxic fumes.

“I’m so happy, because we all worked so hard. I think Eric Pickles is a wonderful man.”

Cathy Roe, a spokeswoman for Hatfield Against Incineration, hailed the decision, saying campaigners were “very, very pleased” after their lengthy fight.

She criticised the county council for “not listening” to residents and urged them to use methods of waste management that minimised harm to people and the planet.

St Albans district councillor for Colney Heath Chris Brazier said Mr Pickles had been “sensible” in overturning the county council’s go-ahead.

Dreda Gordon, of London Colney, who gave evidence to the enquiry as both a resident and retired teacher who had formerly taught at Southfield School, said it was “brilliant news”.

St Albans MP Anne Main has joined the large chorus of anti-incinerator campaigners who have rushed to applaud Mr Pickles’ rejection of what she has described as a “monstrosity”.

She said: “Over the past few years local residents have felt besieged by plans to develop inappropriate waste disposal sites.

“My constituents in Colney Heath will be relieved this monstrosity has been turned down.”

Green Party district councillor Simon Grover said it was “fantastic news for taxpayers” as residents would not be tied into a “ruinous long-term contract to effectively pay Veolia to burn our money”.

Lib Dem environment spokesman at county hall Cllr Sandy Walkington said: “David has beaten Goliath. This was always the wrong location. This is an opportunity for a radical rethink of how Herts should deal with the part of our waste stream which cannot be re-used or recycled.”

Spokespeople for Veolia and the county council described it as “very disappointing”.

Cllr Terry Douris, the council’s cabinet member for waste, said that building the incinerator would have saved Herts about £667 million over 25 years.

He added: “We will now, with Veolia, consider our next steps.”

Robert Hunt, Veolia UK’s chief corporate officer, said: “In our view there remains a clear local need for regional waste treatment infrastructure of this nature in Herts.

“This decision and the length of the decision-making process also send out a very negative signal to inward investors in UK Plc.”