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Sita eco park publicity panned

Complaints over publicity material for a proposed gasification facility have been upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The ruling refers to material published by waste management company Sita in a newsletter during public consultation on its plans for an anaerobic digestion and batch oxidation gasification facility in Shepperton.

Planning permission was granted in July for the plant, which will process 40,000 tonnes of food waste and 60,000 tonnes of household waste a year. Campaigners now say the decision must be called into question and are urging the secretary of state for communities to refuse “this wholly inappropriate proposal”.

Tracy Harris, who made the complaint to the ASA, is now part of the Spelthorne against the Eco Park (SATEP) group. She said: “Had residents been made aware of the real implications this facility will bring to Spelthorne, I am sure Sita would have faced far greater opposition than it has.”

SATEP said Sita’s publicity material was “disingenuous at a basic level” and the consultation should be declared “null and void”.

An original complaint was about drawings used to illustrate the facility. The ASA found that the they were misleading and breached rules on substantiation because it “did not accurately reflect the likely height of the stack” which was 48m tall. The ASA ruling document added that the height of the stack “would be a significant feature of the structure and visible from the surrounding area”.

Two further complaints, referring to the way the gasification technology was described, were upheld following an independent review of the findings.

The newsletter compared the proposed plant to facilities in Dumfries and Iceland. It stated that these were “all operating successfully” and the ASA decided that readers would interpret this to mean that the gasification for Charlton Lane has also been proven.

The ASA said the technology proposed for the new site was not the same as that used in Dumfries and Iceland. It added that the Iceland facility had failed its dioxin test in 2009 and the site at Dumfries had experienced problems with the design of its boilers, and the plant had yet to generate electricity.

The ruling found there was an implied claim in the newsletter that the gasification would super-heat non-recycled household waste within predicted emissions levels. The ASA said this had not been substantiated.

Sita regional manager Gareth Swain said: “The ASA has reversed its ruling on two points regarding our October 2010 newsletter. We’re surprised and disappointed by this u-turn as nothing has changed since the ASA’s original decision in May, which we believe was fair and appropriate.

“It is always our intention to provide timely and accurate information to the public as part of the consultation for an Eco Park at Charlton Lane and we believe we did so in this case.”

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