Nottinghamshire County Council has criticised Peel Environmental for failing to differentiate its proposed Bilsthorpe Energy Centre (BEC) adequately from Air Products’ scrapped plants on Teesside.
As reported by MRW, communities secretary Greg Clark delayed his planning decision for the BEC because of concerns that its 95,000 tonnes a year plasma gasification plant used similar technology to the Tees Valley project, which was scrapped on 4 April.
Peel wrote to Clark’s DCLG department outlining differences in technology and saying that Air Products’ decision to exit the energy-from-waste (EfW) sector was for commercial reasons rather than operational issues.
Now the council has responded to the Peel letter, expressing disappointment that the company has not been specific enough in distinguishing its technology from the Tees Valley sites.
“The applicant has not made any thorough investigation of the technical challenges at Tees Valley, never mind attempt to overcome them,” said the council’s senior practitioner Mike Hankin.
The council’s original position to support the BEC’s planning application was influenced by Peel’s assurance that the gasification process was reliable by making reference to the Air Products development, he added.
Both Air Products and Peel use Westinghouse plasma gasification technology. Hankin accepts there is evidence of it being deployed successfully abroad, but wants further assurances that it could work domestically.
The author of Peel’s letter, consultant Martin Pollard, has responded to Hankin, saying he could not investigate Air Products’ technical difficulties because details of design and operational issues were not released.
He accuses the council of “confusing land use matters … with private business matters that should properly lie with the developer”.
“There is no doubt that Air Products has experienced significant business difficulties with their Tees Valley proposals,” he wrote. ”From a planning and environmental perspective, no poor decisions were made and no materially adverse consequences have arisen.”
The UK Without Incineration Network national co-ordinator Shlomo Dowen, who opposes both schemes, said it was reasonable to infer from Air Products’ announcement that it was leaving the EfW market because it had encountered technical issues at the Tees Valley sites.
“The applicant is leaving open the realistic prospect of Air Products issues imperilling the Bilsthorpe scheme whilst offering no meaningful reassurance that they would be able to learn the lessons from the difficulties experienced at Tees Valley,” his letter says.
There is no indication of when Clark will rule on the application, which was originally called in by the then DCLG secretary Eric Pickles in December 2014.