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Incinerator firm ‘fixed result of site selection’

Cheryl Livingstone
Aberdeen Press and Journal
June 7, 2012
A DEVELOPMENT company was accused yesterday of “fixing the result” of a site-selection exercise as it planned to build a £43million waste-to-energy incinerator.

The claim was made as a public inquiry opened into Combined Power and Heat (Highlands) Ltd’s (CPH) proposals to build in the Highlands.

The company denied the allegation – but admitted that it had not looked at some possible alternative sites because they were deemed inappropriate.

About 30 residents attended the inquiry at Invergordon, with local councillors and multimillionaire and former Harrods boss Mohamed Al Fayed, who has been helping the community fight the plans for two years.

The inquiry was called after CPH appealed against Highland Council’s decision to reject its bid for planning permission in 2010.

The inquiry heard Mr Al Fayed’s company, Ross Estates, and the local authority raised concerns that other sites had not been examined, including Nigg and the former landfill at the Longman Industrial Estate in Inverness.

Ian Crummack, a technical adviser for CPH, said other sites had been considered but were not thought to be appropriate.

He said there were engineering problems with the Longman site and it was not big enough for the development.

He also raised concerns that the development would be visible from the Kessock Bridge entrance to the Highland capital.

During cross-examination, however, advocate James Findlay, representing Highland Council, asked whether a full assessment of the site had been carried out.

Mr Crummack said the team looking at potential locations did not fully assess the Longman site and its decision was based on knowledge of what problems were usually associated with former landfills.

Mr Findlay queried why other sites on the Longman Industrial Estate had been marked as unavailable in a report from 2008, and said another company, Shore Energy, had since been granted planning permission to build a recycling centre on land belonging to Inverness Harbour Trust on the estate.

He asked: “Was the harbour trust land included in the assessment of the Longman Industrial Estate for possible sites?”

Mr Crummack said that, from his recollection, it had not been included.

Mr Findlay said: “Was the Inverness Harbour Trust ever approached about using their land?” Mr Crummack said he was not aware of that having happened.

Douglas Armstrong QC, representing Ross Estates, also raised concerns about alternative sites and accused the company of fixing the site-selection process.

He said the environmental statement had listed five sites that had been considered, while only one had been available for development – the Invergordon site on Cromarty Firth Industrial Estate.

Mr Armstrong said: “That is not site-selecting – this is fixing the result before it’s even begun. It’s like entering a horse race knowing your horse is going to win.

“You have said the Longman site didn’t qualify but presented no evidence why it wasn’t suitable. That is not acceptable in any process.”

Mr Crummack said he did not agree with that. He added: “I think it is unfair to criticise us simply for recording the process we went through at the time. We would be criticised if we hadn’t included any other sites in the report.”

The inquiry continues.

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