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Go-ahead for controversial Cornwall incinerator

Cornwall Council has given the green light to the controversial St Dennis incinerator, despite objectors’ claims that a change of ownership of a major customer could scupper the project.

The council endorsed the draft revised project plan for the incinerator, named the Cornwall Energy Recovery Centre (CERC), last week, and the three year construction phase is due to start in August 2013.

Last month, Cornwall Waste Forum, who oppose the incinerator, engaged consultants to devise an alternative plan to handle the county’s waste.

Lance Kennedy, Cornwall’s portfolio holder for community safety, public protection and waste management, said: “I recognise that some people remain unhappy about this proposal but the hard facts are that we can’t afford to delay any longer.” 

The council has also resolved to lend waste firm SITA £25m towards the project’s costs, repayable with interest over its lifetime.

Disagreement over incinerator

Objectors have been given hope by china clay firm Imerys Minerals’ takeover two weeks ago of its industry neighbour Goonvean, which was to have bought surplus heat from SITA.

Leading objector Elizabeth Hawken claimed it was “highly likely” that Imerys would decline to buy the heat, a situation she said would see SITA unable to acquire either PFI credits or renewable obligation certificates, which in turn could invalidate its Environment Agency permit.

An Imerys Minerals spokesman said it was conducting a detailed evaluation of the Goonvean operations, and “until this review is completed, it is not possible to comment any further on what our future plans may involve related to the CERC”.

But the council said SITA and Goonvean entered into a confidential binding agreement in 2006 for the CERC to export low grade heat to Goonvean, and that this remained in place.

A council statement said Ms Hawken’s claim was inaccurate as the provision of PFI credits for the CERC was not conditional on providing heat to industry, and nor did the Environment Agency demand this.

Permit legal

SITA was required only to periodically review the practicability of combined heat and power implementation and report the results to the Environment Agency, but “even if the heat agreement is not carried out, it would not impact on the legality of the permit”. 

Cllr Kennedy said, “I was aware of the situation regarding the sale of part of the Goonvean operation to Imerys and the obvious requirement for Imerys to study any and all implications of their purchase.

“There are a number of connected issues currently under discussion that were anticipated, the sale being one of them. The process of project completion can proceed as planned.”

A SITA spokesman the company was happy to sell heat from the incinerator to any buyer, but the project was not dependent on being able to do this.

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