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Waste to energy projects go ahead as others face delays

Efforts to build more municipal energy from waste plants gathered pace this week after a project in Staffordshire won planning approval and Blackburn & Darwen Borough Council announced the shortlist for another.

This week Staffordshire County Council approved Veolia Environmental Services’ plans for an energy from waste plant at Four Ashes, near Wolverhampton.

The plans had been revised to improve the overall appearance, of the facility as well as its environmental and operational aspects. The project had originally won approval in April 2009.

The revised proposals reduce the building’s overall footprint, size and height from that previously approved.

The incinerator will process 300,000t of waste per year, producing 23MW for the National Grid - enough to power 32,000 homes. The new project seeks to minimise impact on local surroundings as similar schemes have been criticised as large and obtrusive.

Blackburn & Darwen has now narrowed preferred bidders for its scheme down to two − Veolia and New Earth Solutions.

A winner is expected to be selected in June with financial close in July. The 40,000t per year waste scheme has an estimated value of £20M over a concession period of 20 years.

Planning obstacles mean that reaching financial close is no guarantee of energy from waste plants being constructed. Other companies are waiting to hear the fate of their incinerator projects following public inquiries.

A public inquiry into the rejection of Sita’s planning application for a 16MW energy from waste incinerator in central Cornwall will conclude in May or June, A public inquiry into Covanta’s planned 370,000t incinerator in Middlewich, Cheshire is set to start on 8 March.

The proposal was unanimously rejected by Cheshire East councillors in May 2010, and the inquiry was postponed from its original start date in November 2010.

Veolia is also waiting for the result of an inquiry into its planned incinerator near Mansfield, which began in September 2010 after being adjourned in April that year. The result is expected on or before 31 May.

Veolia’s waste PFI contract with Nottinghamshire County Council has been agreed since 2004, but the project has repeatedly been delayed by a change of location and pressure from lobby group Mansfield Against Incineration and by environmental studies.

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