The self-governing Isle of Man is a major offshore financial centre and is growing fast. Indeed, this is one factor driving a gradual increase in the population, which currently stands at 76,000 - a figure swelled by around 10% through tourism in the summer season, and by 25% during TT race weeks.
The Isle of Man government is developing a number of major infrastructure projects to help cater for this increase as well as to upgrade existing facilities. One of the first to be completed is the energy-from-waste (EFW) plant at Richmond Hill near the capital, Douglas.
Councils choosing to include energy recovery from waste in their integrated waste management plans can face opposition from local environmental groups and residents. Regardless of the development, their concerns are always similar: traffic, emissions, noise and dust, threats to the quality of the local environment and to their families' health.
Even without opposition, the process of funding, siting and building an EFW plant is a lengthy one. Rightly so, as the checks and balances in the planning and permitting system should give residents reassurance that all aspects have been properly considered and addressed.
During that process, much attention is given to the physical presence and scale of the plant, and architects often attempt to blend the typically large and solid facility into its surroundings in order to reduce the visual impact.
However, the architects designing the newly-opened EFW plant at Richmond Hill took the opposite approach, with so much success that the plant has recently won an award for innovation in design.
Local architects Savage & Chadwick decided that the combination of the location, a high point of the island against gently curving hills, and the scale of the plant made disguise impossible, and that what was really needed was a new landmark building for the Isle of Man. The striking 70 metre stack has been designed to resemble a Viking sail, reflecting the island's historical associations (the Tynwald, the island's parliament, was established by the Vikings 1,000 years ago). Alongside the stack, the building's curved roof line mirrors the surrounding hills and is visually diminished by the sail's dominance.
So how do the Isle of Man's residents feel about their new landmark? According to local taxi drivers - well known barometers of the popular view - the EFW plant has already largely been accepted, just months after it began operating. But it's not all about appearance of course.
Although it had wide political support, the EFW proposal has been on and off since the early 1980s. During the protracted deliberations, Members of the House of Keys (MHKs are representatives in the lower house of Tynwald, similar to English MPs) made a number of visits to sites with different waste technologies, to help them reach their decision.
They were appalled by a visit to an MRF, finding it smelly and dirty. A visit to a gasification and pyrolysis facility took place on a day that it was not operating, while an anaerobic digestion plant already on the island had a poor record and has been the subject of litigation. The MHKs were conscious that, like other small islands, they faced specific challenges for managing municipal waste, particularly space constraints. They decided that their new waste treatment facility should use proven EFW technology - a decision that has been vindicated by the fact that, during its first two months of operation when 'teething problems' could be expected, the EFW plant availability was 97.5%. &