Plans from Amey to build a £200m energy-from-waste (EfW) facility in Cambridgeshire has been halted by the nearby presence of a 12th century abbey.
Cambridgeshire County Council’s planning committee took the unusual step of rejecting the application despite a recommendation from council planners to accept it.
Amey had applied to build the £200m facility at Waterbeach Waste Management Park, where there are already a number of operations.
The 165ha site is allocated in council plans for waste industry use, including EfW. Amey had proposed to treat up to 250,000 tonnes a year of residual waste to create 27.4MW of electricity from a plant that required an 80m high chimney.
But objectors said this would ruin the setting of Denny Abbey, parts of which date to the 12th century.
South Cambridgeshire District Council said in its objection: “The Denny Abbey heritage site is exceptional and its significance multifaceted, but its setting is a fundamental contributor to that significance, including that of each listed building.
“The sheer size of the EfW facility, and its proximity and harm to the setting and views of Denny Abbey, would be contrary to [planning policy]”.
The Environment Agency said it would object to the project unless planning conditions were imposed to overcome “an unacceptable risk to the water environment”.
East Cambridgeshire District Council, Historic England, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and local Conservative MP Heidi Allen were also among objectors.
The planners’ report admitted that Amey’s project would cause detriment to Denny Abbey, but added: “We consider that there is a balanced planning justification to support the development of the EfW facility (and the carrying out of the associated works) as proposed in this application.”
Cambridgeshire’s formal decision notice said the project had been rejected due to “the harm to the setting of the Denny Abbey complex heritage asset” and its “scale and massing…in relation to the landscape…and harm to the visual amenity of local residents”.
A council spokesperson said: “The planning committee made a decision based on the facts from the officer report and information that arose through considering representations as part of the meeting, which included the landscape report funded by the local community.”
Rejection of an application recommended by officers is rare because this factor can count against councils in any planning appeal.
An Amey statement said: “Building the EfW facility at Waterbeach Waste Management Park is a sustainable solution for dealing with present and future waste needs in Cambridgeshire and the region, providing an opportunity to increase recycling, generate renewable electricity, create jobs and bring investment to the area.
“We will now take time to consider our next steps following yesterday’s decision.”