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October 22nd, 2014:

DEFRA cancels PFI support for Hatfield incinerator

Simon Inglethorpe

20 October 2014

DEFRA has withdrawn £115m of private finance initiative (PFI) support from Hertfordshire County Council’s residual waste infrastructure project.

Veolia is proposing to build a 380,000-tonne capacity energy-from-waste (EfW) plant near Hatfield as part of an £800m, 25-year contract with the council.

The waste management giant said it was “very disappointed” by the news.

“This shortsighted decision will increase the UK’s reliance on landfill to treat our residual waste,” a spokeswoman said. “Veolia believe that DEFRA’s decision points to a lack of government support for new waste infrastructure and fails to address the 17 million tonnes of waste that currently goes to landfill.”

State support for the proposed EfW plant is not warranted, DEFRA claims, because the treatment capacity it would provide is no longer needed to meet landfill diversion targets.

A spokeswoman for the department said: “DEFRA’s responsibility is to ensure public money is used appropriately and as we expect to meet EU landfill diversion targets with the existing infrastructure we now have in place in England, we cannot justify continuing to fund this project.”

DEFRA justified its decision by releasing an updated forecast of waste arisings and treatment capacity prior to the announcement.

Member states need to reduce the amount of biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfill to 35% of 1995 levels by 2020 under the EU Landfill Directive.

But there is now a 99.9% likelihood this target will be met without the Hertfordshire EfW project, according to DEFRA’s latest forecast. The department now predicts that the EU target will be exceeded by about 6.6 million tonnes by 2020 without the project’s contribution.

Other independent forecasts broadly corroborate this prediction, it claims.

“Although conclusions vary regarding infrastructure requirements in general, there appears to be a consensus of results showing sufficient capacity to meet the requirements of the 2020 landfill target,” says DEFRA.

Recent infrastructure capacity reports by the Green Investment Bank, Veolia and Sita and are all consistent with the government’s latest forecast, in the department’s view. This is surprising given that Veolia’s report is highly critical of the “dangerous” assumptions used in DEFRA waste forecasting.

Criticisms of the withdrawal of PFI credits by trade body the Environmental Services Association (ESA) echo Veolia’s concerns.

Its economist, Jacob Hayler, said it was a “wrong” and “short-sighted” decision that would increase the UK’s reliance on landfill and exports of refuse-derived fuel.

Hayler also accused the government of changing its waste composition assumptions to make the landfill diversion target easier to meet. DEFRA’s latest forecast assumes a much lower biodegradable content for waste (50%) compared with the figure used in its previous capacity forecast in October 2013 (65%).

Mounting project woes

The cancellation of government PFI support adds to the difficulties facing the controversial Hertfordshire project.

Communities and local government (DCLG) secretary Eric Pickles blocked Veolia’s application to build an EfW plant on a 12.6-hectare site south of Hatfield over the summer.

Veolia reacted to the planning refusal by launching a legal challenge and has pledged to continue this fight.

A spokeswoman said: “The decision has not affected Veolia’s belief that an in-county treatment solution for Hertfordshire is needed, and Veolia will continue with our legal challenge to the secretary of state’s refusal to give planning permission for the recycling and energy recovery facility at New Barnfield, due to be heard in December.”

The government has withdrawn £1.3bn in PFI support from a total of 12 waste infrastructure projects so far this parliament.

The latest cancellation comes less than a year after the axing of £91m in PFI support for Norfolk County Council’s EfW project.

This followed the removal of £217m in PFI support to three projects in 2013 and the 2010 scrapping of £926m of PFI support for seven projects.

Despite the cutbacks, DEFRA will spend £100m – nearly 80% of its waste and resource budget – on PFI projects in 2014/15.

MPs attacked the government’s “appalling” management of PFI support for waste infrastructure in a report last month

Government seeks to end waste site construction on green belt

17 Oct 2014

Conor McGlone

Developers will find it more difficult to get planning consent to build waste facilities in the green belt under new government rules.

In an update to the national planning policy for waste, published on 16 October, the government said companies and councils looking to develop facilities will have to look for suitable sites on brownfield land before exploring other options.

Responses to a consultation on waste policy, which ran from July, were released on the same day, confirming that planning permission to develop waste facilities on green belt land would only be approved under “very special circumstances”.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles said these measures would ensure the green belt could continue to offer a “strong defence” against urban sprawl in towns and cities, and would “bring waste into line with the policies on other development”.

The new rules also mean that councils can no longer give special consideration to needs based on location or the wider economic benefits of a potential site, over other considerations as justification for building waste facilities on green belt land.

The update follows the release of statistics from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) showing that green belt land, which makes up 13% of England’s land area, declined by 0.03% last year.

Total green belt land fell by 540 hectares to a total of 1.6 million hectares in 2013/14. Three local authorities – Rochford, South Gloucestershire and West Lancashire – reduced the size of their green belt land last year.

Planning guidance on housing, published on 6 October, stated that green belt boundaries should only be changed in “exceptional cases” and any unmet housing need would not justify the harm done to the green belt by “inappropriate development”.

Concerns over “inflexible” policy

While the policy states that planning authorities should consider “any adverse effect on a site of international importance for nature conservation” and any waste facilities should operate without “harming the environment”, some environmental groups have voiced concerns over the government’s appetite for brownfield development.

Earlier this month, the Land Trust and Buglife argued that a large number of brownfield sites are not suitable for development due to their value to society and the environment as public open spaces.

In addition, three quarters of respondents to the government’s consultation said its updated policy on waste was “not flexible enough” and would have “a negative impact” on the industry.

According to a report from the Green Investment Bank published in July, the UK needs to invest an extra £5bn into waste infrastructure in order to close the residual waste capacity gap over the next six years (

That is equivalent to building ten EfW plants a year for the rest of the decade at a capital cost of £750 per tonne.

It was also felt that applications for new anaerobic digestion and composting plants could be blocked under the rules, despite being better suited to rural locations that are closer to their feedstocks.

Respondents were also concerned that the change in policy approach could lead to facilities being located further from waste arisings, leading to higher carbon emissions from transportation.

Despite this, the government confirmed it would push on with hardening planning rules because it attached “great importance to the protection of the green belt

Hills Selects Chinook Sciences for 22 MW Waste to Energy Gasification Plans in Wiltshire, UK

17 October 2014

Ben Messenger

Northacre Renewable Energy (NRE), part of waste and recycling firm, The Hills Group, is proposing to submit a planning application to build a 22 MW waste to energy gasification facility at the Northacre Industrial Park in Wiltshire.

The proposed site is located between Hills Waste Solutions’ existing Northacre Resource Recovery Centre (NRRC) and Arla Foods Westbury Dairies at on the industrial park in Westbury.

The facility would use gasification technology to generate electricity. The company said that discussions with local businesses that are interested in being supplied with local heat and power from Northacre Renewable Energy are ongoing.

Nottingham, UK based waste gasification and clean technology firm, Chinook Sciences, has been selected by Hills as the technology partner for the proposed waste gasification plant.

If the facility goes ahead it will process 160,000 tonnes of high calorific content Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF) Hills’ NRRC, as well as local Commercial and Industrial (C&I) waste  to generate 22 MW. Some of power generated will be used by the waste to energy facility and the adjoining NRRC material recycling facility.

Hills explained that currently the SRF from the NRRC is transported by road to port and shipped to energy facilities located in Germany and Holland because there is not a local waste to energy plant in Wiltshire.

The company said that Northacre Renewable Energy will help fill the gap in the renewable energy market and enable locally produced fuel to be used to generate local energy which supports the concept of regional energy security.

Northacre Renewable Energy will also create 40 new jobs and support Wiltshire’s aspiration for a green economy.

The plan is for Northacre Renewable Energy (NRE) to also provide electricity and potentially heat to adjacent businesses on the Northacre Industrial Park, and to export the surplus electricity to the National Grid.

“We are creating a local circular economy,” commented Northacre Renewable Energy director, Mike Webster commented.

“Wiltshire’s household waste is made into a SRF at Northacre RRC and together with commercial and industrial waste destined for landfill will supply the proposed Northacre Renewable Energy facility right next door which will in turn power local businesses,” he added.


According to Chinook, its RODECS® gasification system, now in its ninth design generation, uses the company’s patented Active Pyrolysis® process to reclaim valuables and transform discarded waste materials into energy.

By combining both pyrolysis and gasification the system is claimed to be capable of processing any form of organic waste, recovering metals and other recyclable materials, and producing a clean synthetic gas (syngas) for energy generation.

The proprietary process is also claimed to not require any form of pre-sorting or pre-processing.

The first RODECS system was commissioned in 2000 and had a batch capacity of 2m3. The company noted that it is still in full operational today. The current generation is said to have a batch capacity of over 100m3 and is capable of processing 100,000 tonnes of MSW per year.

According to Chinook, Hills conducted an extensive two yearlong selection process, using a firm of independent engineers to assess a range of conventional and Advanced Thermal Treatment technologies, before selecting its technology.

Planning process

The planning application process began recently with the launch of a consultation programme. The site has been identified in the Wiltshire and Swindon Waste Site Allocations Plan 2013 as a site suitable for a ‘Materials Recovery Facility, Waste Transfer Station, Local Recycling and Waste Treatment’.

Hills said that an eight week period of pre-planning consultation to seek views on the proposal to develop the Northacre Renewable Energy facility has now begun, with a public exhibition planned for the 4 November from 2pm to 8pm at Northacre RRC.

The company added that at this early stage in the development local businesses, community leaders and residents are being consulted.

Northacre Renewable Energy is aiming to submit its planning application to Wiltshire Council in December 2014. Subject to planning, Northacre Renewable Energy would then be built in 2015/2016 with the facility fully operational in 2017.