A public inquiry into a controversial energy recovery facility proposed for Nottinghamshire has been adjourned for a second time amid speculation that Veoila Environmental Services could pull out and abandon its plans for the site.
The plans, submitted by Veoila, to build an incinerator on the former Rufford Colliery in Rainworth have been the subject of fierce local opposition, prompting a public inquiry which resumed in April following a six-month postponement.
After just one week of the inquiry, Veoila requested a second adjournment following a submission of evidence from Natural England surrounding whether the site should be designated as a Special Protection Area due to the protected woodlark and nightjar birds living there.
Veoila has until May 18 to respond to the planning inspector about whether it wishes to continue with the inquiry. If it does, none of the parties are available to resume until late September, almost a year after the inquiry first began in October 2009.
MRW understands from insiders close to the inquiry that it is unlikely that Veolia will continue with their application.
UK Without Incineration national co-ordinator Shlomo Dowen said: “Some campaigners are celebrating already as no one believes Veolia can come back from this. It is being seen as a victory for the People Against Incineration campaign which has fought against the plans.”
The point over which Veolia requested the adjournment from Natural England said: “Natural England would advise the competent authority on the matter that the ERF development, in combination with other plans and projects, would be likely to have a significant effect on the qualifying interest features of breeding nightjar and woodlark by reason which the Sherwood Forest site may be considered to be a potential Special Protection Area.”
If an area is designated as an SPA then it is necessary to apply habitats regulations as a matter of law, which means that planning permission is automatically refused unless the applicant can show overriding need.
Nottinghamshire County Council planning applications manager Mike Hankin said: “Veoila’s request to adjourn the inquiry was based on the supplementary proof from Natural England being submitted.”
The Council had been supportive of the plans for the incinerator but in light of the evidence from Natural England it issued a statement to the planning inspector which said: “The County Council’s recommendation will now be that the Secretary of State should not grant planning permission without first making an Appropriate Assessment of the in-combination effects.”
Natural England has since written to the planning inspector to say that its supplementary proof was misinterpreted but the adjournment had already been granted with many believing that, despite this admission by Natural England, Veolia will find it difficult to come back from this.
Dowen said: “It [Veolia] will want to avoid a judgement by the Secretary of State because it wants to open other incinerators in other areas and a catastrophic failure at an inquiry could affect some of its other applications. It would probably be happy to sacrifice this one to protect some of the others.”
Veolia were unavailable to comment on this issue but are expected to issue a formal statement to the planning inspector on May 18.