Planning approval for a £43m energy-from-waste plant in the Scottish Highlands has been quashed for the second time following concerns over the import of waste from other areas.
The planning saga began in 2009, when Highland Council rejected the first application from Combined Heat and Power (Highlands) for the facility at Invergordon.
That decision was challenged by the company and the Scottish Government overruled the council. This move, however, was thrown out by the courts in 2011.
In 2012, a second application with 16 conditions relating to the import of waste, transport and environmental and tourism issues was backed after a public inquiry. Objectors included the council and tycoon Mohamed Al Fayed’s company Ross Estates, which owns land near Invergordon.
They objected that the plant would use waste imported from outside the local authority area and transport links to the facility would be inadequate.
Again, it went to the courts where the judge agreed with the opponents on the waste import issue alone and ordered that an inquiry be reopened to discuss it further.
He said that the planning approval went beyond conditions discussed at the public inquiry.
Under the original proposal, only waste produced within the Highland Council area would have been processed at the facility, but the planning permission added that waste from pre-treatment facilities located within the Highland Council area, some of which may have originated externally, could also have been brought to the EfW plant.
The judge said: “It is plain, in my view, that the appellants [the council and Ross Estates] have been unfairly disadvantaged. They have not had the opportunity fully to consider the planning implications of the enlarged consent that the developer did not seek, still less to lead evidence or make submissions on the point. For that reason too, the decision cannot stand.”
The planning application will go back to the reporter of the Scottish Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals for consideration.
Highland Council welcomed the decision. Cllr Maxine Smith said: “I am delighted that we have the opportunity to go back to inquiry to argue that planning permission should be refused. This incinerator is not wanted in Invergordon by the majority of people living here.”