A controversial planning application to build a plastics recycling plant in Rushden has been granted by county councillors - despite objections from hundreds of residents, parish and town councils and the local MP.
The plant, in Upper Higher Lane, will still require a permit from the Environment Agency to start its operation, but the proposed £60m plant has overcome a major hurdle in being given planning permission.
A packed public gallery heckled members of the development control committee at County Hall this afternoon (October 18) after the decision was made - ‘another disastrous decision from the county council’ lambasted one resident.
But the applicant for the plant, which will convert waste plastics into fuel, said the plant ‘was not monstrous as is being made out’, and was proportionate and located in the right area.
Wellingborough and Rushden MP Peter Bone made a rare appearance at a planning meeting to register his concern, just two days after handing a letter outlining his concerns to Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street.
He said: “I was astonished that there was no mention of the 900,000 litres of fuel that could potentially be stored at the site, especially when there’s no fire service in the area.”
He also raised concerns about air pollution, adding: “I went to Downing Street this week with a letter of my concerns, to ensure that we are not guinea pigs here in Northamptonshire. This proposal is unacceptable for me and for my constituents.”
Objectors, which included a petition with more than 200 signatures from Chelveston residents, say that harmful dioxins coming from the 35m-high flue would pollute the air.
But Public Health England and the Environment Agency raised no objections to the scheme during consultation.
Public Health England wrote in its response: “Based on the information contained in the application supplied to us, Public Health England has no significant concerns regarding the risk to the health of the local population from the installation.”
But campaigners argued that there was insufficient evidence on which to base those claims, as the proposed plant in Rushden would be the first of its kind in Europe.
Resident Philip Giddings said: “This is not a recycling plant. Given the application, it’s not surprising that so many people have objected.”
The facility, based on a small industrial estate, will handle up to 75,000 tonnes of waste plastic each year, and would convert pre-prepared waste into diesel, petrol and liquid petroleum gas.
Cllr Jason Smithers questioned whether there was a risk with fuel stored at the facility of a similar explosion to the Buncefield oil terminal in 2005 at Hemel Hempstead.
One building on the Rushden estate was damaged by fire more than 10 years ago.
But it emerged throughout the meeting that Northamptonshire Fire Service had raised no objections over the safety of the scheme, even though their response failed to be included in the public papers prior to the meeting.
Victor Buchanan, of Dallol Energy, represented the applicants Energy Roots Ltd at the meeting, and said: “We looked at 12 sites across the country, and this was the best site we could find.
“The idea that this is some sort of monstrous development is not true. It’s proportionate, and commercially it would make sense for those tanks to be empty.
“I won’t be able to convince residents because there’s always a fear of the unknown, but this is a thoroughly well thought-out process.”
Five members of the development control committee voted in favour of granting the scheme, with one voting against.
Planning permission was given two years ago for a combined heat and power plant on the site, but this new application supersedes it.