Judicial Review into Covanta incinerator may only delay and not stop the building Image: Covanta Energy

Judicial Review into Covanta’s permit to be heard in October

Local campaigners are hoping that the Judicial Review (JR) into the Environment Agencys decision to issue a permit for Covanta’s energy-from-waste (EfW) plant at Stewartby will be the start of the end of the plant.

Bedfordshire Against Covanta Incinerator (BACI) went to the High Court in May and a judge found that the group had  “identified arguable grounds” to have their case heard.

The JR will only be looking into the issuing of the permit and not into the planning permission.

Rookery South plant Image: Covanta Energy

Covanta’s Head of UK & Europe, Tom Koltis, feels that October’s JR will not stop the Rookery South Incinerator. In an interview with the Chronicle he said that to him the most the JR could do is delay the construction schedule.

“We remain confident that the permit will be upheld. A delay is not going to kill the project because it is already going forward. The permit isn’t required until the incinerator goes online in around three years’ time.”

Why is waste burned?

Landfill has been the dominant waste management option in the UK for many years. In 2016, the UK landfilled 15.7 million tonnes of municipal waste.

As the fees for using landfill sites in the UK rise, the increased cost of waste disposal is placing greater demands on local authority budgets. There is also the added pressure from the EU Landfill Directive, which aims to reduce reliance on landfill as a disposal option.

Covanta feels that EfW is a proven solution to the UK’s waste problem. The Rookery South plant will convert over 500,000 tonnes of residual waste per year, which the company claims is enough to meet the needs of 75,000 homes, or a town the size of Bedford.

Another option is to export the waste. Around 3m tonnes of the UK’s waste is exported to European EfW facilities. However, this option is only cost effective if the route to the incinerator is as short as possible. External pressures, such as Brexit or lack of capacity at incinerators near the ports, may increase the costs of exporting this waste to a point when it becomes uneconomical.

Rookery South Access Road Image: Covanta Energy

Locals are worried about the traffic caused by “600 lorries a day”

A concern raised by locals is that there will be 600 lorries entering and leaving the site each day. Covanta argue that the figure will be only be 250 movements a day.
“That’s what we expect to support the plant at 100% of running capacity.”
Covanta’s plant in Dublin was meant to be running at 100%, but there has been an application to increase the number of HGV movements, so why does this site need more deliveries?
“The plant in Ireland was running at 100%, but the CV value [calorific value of the waste] was lower than expected so more rubbish can be burned.
The less organic the waste, the higher the CV. If the CV rate of the sourced waste increases it is possible that the number of HGVs going to Rookery South might decrease. Although less deliveries means less income for Covanta.
The plant is a 24/7 operation, will lorries be arriving at the plant all night? Tom said that this won’t be the case:

“The planning restrictions are from 7am to 11pm. As an operator you don’t want trucks showing up in the middle of the night, so we’ll look to schedule the majority of deliveries between 7am to 6pm Monday to Friday.

“The times on Saturday are 7am to 4pm and there will be no deliveries on Sundays.”

Tom added that these times are agreed with the delivery contractors and the planning allowance allows for emergencies.
The contractor will sign up for the delivery times, but will its HGVs keep out of the surrounding villages? With other large developments in the area this hasn’t always been the case.
“There is going to be a hotline, people will be able to to call if they see a [delivery] lorry going through [their village].”
The majority of HGVs will be controlled by Veolia, and it will use GPS tracking to ensure that drivers follow the official route. If drivers do ignore the directions – Tom said: “we will get it sorted”.
Veolia will be transporting the waste in sealed trailers. Image: Covanta Energy

Rubbish on the roadside

The lorries used for the landfill sites at Brogborough and Stewartby used nets to keep the rubbish in the trailers. These were not always effective, so rubbish was left on the roadside. Are the lorries transporting the waste to Rookery South a litter risk? Tom said:

“The trucks that are bringing the fuel in are moving floor, sealed HGVs. The waste is forced off the truck inside the plant.”

Excessive noise from the plant

As well as the emissions, residents are also concerned about noise from the plant. Tom said:

“In 2017, the acoustic assessment was revised to be responsive to the methodology established by the latest BSI requirements (BS 4142:2014) using updated background noise levels.

“This assessment indicates a low impact, defined as 0 dB or less by BSI. Operational noise levels are also predicted to be in compliance with short term standards (5 min and 1 hour) previously established by the planning permission process.”

Tom added that the plant will not add any perceptible noise to the existing background noise level and that the plant will be monitored to ensure that this remains the case.

The Rookery South Community Liaison Panel

Established in 2008, the Rookery South Community Liaison Panel (CLP) is part of the communications arrangements of the project. The CLP provides a forum to ensure dialogue between Covanta, local communities and elected politicians from nearby villages including Stewartby, Millbrook and Marston Moretaine.

“We value the views and opinions of our neighbours and look forward to building open, long-term and transparent relationships.”

To find out more or be involved in the CLP, residents can email the project team using the Contact Us feature on the Rookery South website. The website has information on the Rookery South CLP and the minutes from previous meetings.