Protests over Radlett incinerator site plans

PROTESTERS gathered at the site in Radlett earmarked for a controversial incinerator plant last week.

They were joined by MEP Richard Howitt who cast his vote against burning waste and placed it in a special ballot box at the demonstration last Friday.

Part of the Lafarge Aggregates site off Harper Lane – opposite Radlett Lodge special needs school – is the proposed location of one of the two shortlisted companies, E.ON Energy from Waste AG, which have been chosen by the county council to submit a more detailed bid for an Energy from Waste (EfW) facility to serve Herts.

The other bidder is Veolia Environmental Services which has proposed a facility at New Barnfield in South Hatfield.

Herts County Council (HCC) has maintained that the facility will be heavily regulated and offer a cleaner alternative to landfill – which currently stands at 260,000 tonnes per year in Herts and attracts heavy penalties – as well as generating enough power for 20,000 homes at any one time.

But objectors have cited a list of concerns including harmful emissions from the burning of rubbish and increased traffic around the sites.

Mr Howitt warned: “Local families have a right to clean air to breathe. There remains credible research that incinerators may discharge particles which cause asthma, lung cancer and heart disease – yet the council want to build an incinerator by a school and a hospital.

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“As good recyclers, Hertfordshire people may also not produce enough waste to feed the incinerator. This raises the prospect of waste being imported into the county from other areas. Residents have asked me why should our area become a dustbin for other people’s waste?”

He added: “Across Europe we are looking at how to increase the amount of waste we recycle but burning rubbish is a backwards step.”

District councillor and Labour group leader Martin Leach, who attended the protest, called on full council last month to oppose the proposal for Radlett which has now been referred to a scrutiny committee for debate next Tuesday.

Cllr Leach has asked the scrutiny committee to consider an approach taken by Surrey County Council which scrapped plans for incinerators in favour of an ‘eco park’ using anaerobic digestion – a natural treatment whereby food waste is broken down, producing gases which can then be converted into energy.

He said: “I don’t see why the county council wants us to commit to a 30-year contract when what we need is some flexibility built in when it comes to waste.

“Just 10 years ago, some organisation thought it impossible to achieve a recycling rate of 50 per cent of all our household waste. And yet, year after year we increase our recycling rate and new technologies come along. The next target is between 60 and 70 percent by 2015.”

David Ashton of Herts WithOutWaste, who has been researching waste strategies for the past 10 years, said there were far cleaner and more sustainable ways to manage waste and would be supporting the Radlett protesters.

He insisted that the facility would be unviable if recycling rates increased to 70 to 80 per cent, but if the incinerator got the go-ahead he said it would see valuable materials that could be recycled destroyed and recycling rates plateau or fall.