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Veolia steps in to back Covanta facility

Proposals for a delayed energy-from-waste (EfW) scheme have moved closer to fruition with a partnership between Veolia and Covanta Energy to start construction next year.

The companies have signed a project development agreement to develop the facility at Rookery South Pit near Stewartby, Bedfordshire, which will process municipal, commercial and industrial residual waste from the surrounding area.

When completed, the facility is expected to generate more than 50MWe of electricity and will create around 300 jobs during construction, with 40-50 permanent roles including apprenticeships.

Nearly five years ago, the project was backed by the then Infrastructure Planning Commission, but two councils and the Waste Recycling Group (now FCC Environment) opposed the scheme.

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.

The company no longer has any offices in the UK and liaises with Veolia from its US base. A company spokesman said further partnerships were possible for European projects. 

Veolia and Covanta say their project team will now seek final approvals, complete project financing and engage with key stakeholders and consultees. It is anticipated that construction will start in 2017 with the facility becoming operational in 2020.

Matthew Mulcahy, Covanta senior vice-president and head of corporate development, said: “We are pleased to have found a partner in Veolia that will help us to develop this important growth project. The facility will provide a vital outlet for the sustainable disposal of residual waste and deliver clean, renewable power to the grid.”

Estelle Brachlianoff, senior executive vice-president of Veolia UK and Ireland, said: “This project will contribute to increased landfill diversion and will help the UK to meet its carbon reduction commitments. The scheme will also create direct employment and boost the local supply chain.”

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