A passionate protest from Corby youngsters, an eloquent speech form an Oxford academic, two ejections from the council chamber and a last-minute interjection from planning committee members.
This was a Corby Council meeting like no other.
Development Control Committee members met last night to discuss their response to an application to build an incinerator to burn rubbish trucked in from a 90-mile radius to a site close to the heart of Corby.
A report from officers had raised no serious objections to the scheme at Shelton Road and it was expected that it would be nodded through as Corby Council’s official response to the scheme that will ultimately be decided on by Northamptonshire County Council.
But Corby councillors had other ideas, and last night raised their own string of objections following heartfelt words from three public speakers.
Now they have agreed to send a response to NCC noting their eight key concerns over ecology and landscape, traffic, economic impact on the immediate area, noise, smell, pollution, health, and health and safety with regard to the removal of contaminated land.
Before the meeting opened a group of local youngsters with a drum chanted ‘say no to Shelton Road’ outside the Corby Cube where the committee was due to convene.
Others stood in silent protest holding a banner.
The first speaker, environmental protestor Lee Forster told councillors that he believed that a tonne of carbon dioxide would be released for every tonne of waste burned - meaning 6.5 million tonnes of Co2 will be released into Corby’s atmosphere during the next 25 years.
Lee added: “Other councils are declaring a climate emergency. We haven’t bothered to look at the alternatives to the incinerator.
“This company is not interested in dealing with waste. They’re only interested in providing cheap electricity.”
Another speaker, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Criminology and a Junior Research Fellow in Law at University College Oxford Dr Roxana Willis, said her father and grandfather had been Corby steelworkers who had both died from cancer aged 67. She said that the town had suffered from low aspirations and that a scheme like this would only worsen the issue.
She added that waste not being disposed of in the correct way had contributed to the Corby Group Litigation case which resulted in Corby Council being held responsible for birth defects in 18 children. Similarly, several people are presently involved in a group litigation after suffering cancer that they say is caused by the air they breathed in while working at Corby steelworks.
She added: “The working class have long been associated with dirt and rubbish.
”If you take rubbish and put it into a middle class community it’s not going to have the same impact as if you put it in a town where there have been previous problems with dirt and rubbish. This is very troubling for us.
”I worry how this is going to affect aspirations.”
Dr Willis was later ejected from the meeting for vociferously objecting on a legal point outside of her allotted three-minute time slot.
Priors Hall resident Steve Esler said that the justification for siting the scheme so close to a Corby was not clear.
A speaker for the applicants, Devon-based Corby Ltd said that the incinerator would generate £180m for the local economy, £900,000 per year in business rates, and would provide cheap electricity for local businesses.
She added that Corby Council officers, along with organisations including the Environment Agency, Public Health England, Natural England, Historic England, NCC archaeology had raised no serious objections.
She said the scheme would have a ‘positive impact on the local economy.’
Councillor Judy Caine then spoke about her concerns, saying: “If we screw up our environment we’ll not have anything to incinerate because the planet will be incinerated.
"More work needs to be done to see if the current plans are in the best interests of the local community. And I’m sorry but I don’t think they are.”
Cllr Jean Addison raised concerns about the number of vehicles coming into the plant because of an increase in waste to 260,000 tonnes per year that the developer is asking for in its plans. She also had concerns on the potential effect on other businesses in the immediate area.
Cllr Kevin Watts raised several points including the emission of heavy metals that he didn’t believe the developer had properly responded to.
And veteran Cllr Willie Latta asked the developer if there were any other towns in Northants that had this type of incinerator. The developer said there were not - and there were only 43 such plants in the whole country.
He also questioned why waste was being brought into Corby from such a wide area (90 miles) and the developer said it was intended to take waste from as close to the plant as possible.
Cllr Bob Eyles said that there could be up to 1,225 traffic movements to the site each week, which would be ‘horrendous.’ The developer said that NCC highways had already told them that there would be ‘no noticeable impact’ from this.
Councillors considered adjourning their debate for more work to be done on the response but officers warned them that NCC had planned their own decision-making for next month, that they had already extended the deadline for CBC once but may not do so again.
Another member of the public ejected himself from the meeting after standing up and asking if councillors would send their own children to the primary school at Priors Hall which he said was only 75m from the proposed incinerator. After the meeting, a Corby Limited spokesman clarified that the scheme was more than 1km away from the site.
Councillors, aside from Willie Latta who abstained on the grounds he roundly objected to the whole plan, decided to delegate authority for the response to several of the committee members. Chaired by Cllr Julie Riley, they will meet this week to formulate a report raising eight key issues: ecology and landscape, traffic, economic impact on the immediate area, noise, smell, pollution, health, and health and safety with regard to the removal of contaminated land. That response would then be sent to NCC by the end of this week and the county authority is expected to make its decision on the scheme next month.