Communities secretary Greg Clark has approved Peel Environmental’s application for an energy-from-waste (EfW) plant in Nottinghamshire after withholding his consent.
Clark delayed his decision on Peel’s Bilsthorpe Energy Centre in April because of concerns that its 95,000 tonnes a year plasma gasification plant uses similar technology to Air Products’ scrapped Tees Valley facilities.
Peel wrote to Clark’s Department for Communities and Local Government outlining differences in technology and saying that Air Products’ decision to exit the EfW sector was for commercial reasons rather than operational issues.
Now Clark (pictured) has granted consent for the £70m facility, which will export up to 9.6MW of low-carbon electricity to the grid each year.
Clark’s decision letter includes an additional condition to ensure the restoration of the site within 24 months should the plant’s operations cease.
“The secretary of state considers that this provides a further safeguard against the fears of the county council and other local interests that the site could, at any time, be left abandoned and unrestored,” it says.
“The nature of any design and operational challenges at the Air Products’ Tees Valley Plants have not been made public, while the technology proposed to be used at Bilsthorpe is demonstrably proven and in operation elsewhere.”
The firm’s development manager Richard Barker said: “There is a need for this type of facility to provide both a solution for Nottinghamshire’s waste and to generate low-carbon energy for the region.
“Our plans will stimulate investment and bring new jobs to the area in addition to bringing a former industrial site back into productive use.
“We welcome the secretary of state’s positive decision after a lengthy planning process and approval from the county council.
“The energy centre will be a solution to some of the county’s waste challenges and will, in turn, create supply chain opportunities and a boost to the local economy of around £4m a year.”
However the decision was criticised by Sherwood MP Mark Spencer, a supporter of the local Residents Against Gasification Experiment (RAGE) campaign group.
“We are in a position where another site at Tees Valley using this same technology has failed and construction has come to a halt, leaving the site, the jobs and the local area at risk,” he said.
“Despite that planners are still willing to go ahead here in Bilsthorpe, it makes no sense when you know for a fact that it isn’t working elsewhere. It is an experimental technology and it has failed.
“I will continue to support residents against this plan because it’s not right that this company is being allowed to continue their experiment on the people of Bilsthorpe.’’
The UK Without Incineration Network also disputed there being any examples of the technology being used successfully with a mixed waste feedstock anywhere in the world.
Westinghouse plasma technology, which both facilities proposed to use, has been tested at a demonstration plant in Pennsylvania, US, with a throughput capacity of 45,000 tonnes a year, according to Peel’s letter to Clark in April.
Bilsthorpe’s plasma gasification unit, it says, would be “effectively the same physical size” as Westinghouse’s trial, but “through design development” would now be capable of a 95,000 tonnes a year throughput.
Peel’s application was initially approved by Nottingham County Council’s planners in 2014 before being called in by former communities secretary Eric Pickles later that year.
The site will include a MRF to produce fuel and recover recyclable materials from residual waste, and a gasification facility to use the fuel to create electricity and heat.
Its construction is expected to create up to 330 jobs during construction and 46 once operational.