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Boris overrules council to back Sita AD plant

Sita has been given planning permission by London mayor Boris Johnson to build an anaerobic digestion (AD) plant in the capital after scaling back its original plans.

The original application for a site in Mitcham, south-west London was turned down by Merton Council. This is the first time the mayor has used his power to overrule a council’s decision on a waste facility planning application considered to be of strategic importance to London.  

The recycling and resource management company wants to build an AD plant as well as extending its materials recycling and waste transfer station. The plant will also have the potential to provide district heating.

The AD plant will have the capacity to treat up to 40,000 tonnes of food waste a year, providing power for up to 1,800 homes. In the original planning application, a facility capable of processing up to 100,000 tonnes was put proposed.

Sita UK chief executive David Palmer-Jones said: “London desperately needs a greener, more sophisticated, approach to handling waste, so we are delighted our plans for an AD facility have met with approval from the London mayor. The site will help to reduce significantly the amount of waste we send to landfill and help ensure London meets its environmental targets.

“While we see this is as a positive step forward, we remain committed to working with Merton Council and local residents to address the concerns of the community. We fully intend to remain engaged with local residents throughout the planning and construction process, and will work with them and their elected officials in the coming months to ensure a successful outcome.”

Planning was refused by the council in October in 2010 following concerns about the visual impact of the site, and Sita made a number of changes to the new planning submission in recognition.

Merton’s director of environment and regeneration Chris Lee said: “Objections put forward by residents and the council’s planning applications committee included the adequacy of road access, potential increase in air pollution and visual impact on the local area. After considering these objections, the Mayor of London felt that the benefits of this proposed waste facility would outweigh its negative impact. 

“As part of the approval of planning permission a range of off site environmental improvements would need to be either carried out, or funded by the applicant Sita UK; these improvements include new landscaping along Hallowfield Way and the widening of Baron Walk footpath.”

As well as reducing the amount of food waste the AD plant could process, Sita more than halved its size and footprint. The height of the digestion stack was reduced from 37m to 32m, and the height of the AD tanks fell from 24.5m to 15m.

The planning application also proposed an in-vessel composting facility, which has now been scrapped. Sita also plans to build a visitor centre on the site.

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