The Environment Agency (EA) has issued a permit for a contested and delayed energy-from-waste (EfW) scheme in Bedfordshire, which should mean that construction can begin.
The facility at Rookery South Pit, near Stewartby, is a partnership between Veolia and Covanta Energy, and will process 500,000 tonnes of municipal, commercial and industrial residual waste from the surrounding area.
Site preparation work has begun with full construction anticipated to follow by mid-2018, in conjunction with financial close. The project is expected to be fully operational in 2021.
When completed, the facility is expected to generate more than 50MWe of electricity with a workforce of 40-50, including apprentices.
“Receipt of the environmental permit represents one of the final hurdles before we move into full construction of the Rookery project,” said Matthew Mulcahy, Covanta executive vice president and head of corporate dDevelopment.
“The facility represents critical waste infrastructure that will help the U.K. achieve national recovery, recycling and renewable energy targets. We are pleased with the progress we have made to reach this point and look forward to bringing this project to completion.”
Covanta won the contract originally in 2009 and hoped to have the plant operating by 2013. In 2012, the project was backed by the then Infrastructure Planning Commission but two local authorities and the Waste Recycling Group (now FCC Environment) opposed it.
Petitions alleging negative effects on the environment, transport networks and the local community were dismissed in a rare legal move by a special joint committee of the two Houses of Parliament.
In May 2013, Covanta warned it could pull out of the UK unless it found a buyer or a partner for its three sites which had planning consents for EfW facilities or permits, including Rookery South.
It blamed the move on a failure to win preferred bidder status for a 30-year municipal contract on Merseyside.
But the Rookery project got fresh wind in 2016 when Veolia partnered Covanta to seek final permit approvals and complete the financing. At that stage it was anticipated construction would start in 2017 with the facility becoming operational in 2020.
The EA granted the permit on 26 January, following an application in February 2017.
- Updated with Covanta comment 31 January.