Clear The Air News Blog Rotating Header Image

Plymouth residents fight against new incinerator operations

The city council of Plymouth faced strong backlash from residents for approving the building of a new incinerator while ‘operating in camera’. Initially threatening the incinerator opposition with a huge punitive compensation for the MNC behind the project, MVV, if the incinerator could not go ahead, local residents managed to block the incinerator from starting operations by exposing MVV for not having an approved ash deposit site before they started construction work on the incinerator. At the moment, MVV has been formally denied any plans to deposit incinerator ash in the neighbouring towns of Devon county, but MVV officials insist that the incinerator will be operation as scheduled, in 2014.

The new Plymouth incinerator, Jul 2013 (Plymouth Herald)

Plymouth waste-burning incinerator taking shape in Devonport

Lisa Clark

The incinerator in Devonport is on target to be up and running by the end of next year.

The chief of MVV Environment Devonport Limited, said that the building is well under way.

Managing director Paul Carey said: “We are on target to commission by the end of 2014.”

New pictures show a forest of cranes painstakingly putting the incinerator together in North Yard.

Mr Carey continued: “At the moment we are continuing with a lot of the concrete work and we have started the erection of mechanical equipment.

“The base of the boiler has been started and the large silo tanks have been erected.”

He insisted that previous complaints about noise had been addressed.

Mr Carey said: “We have a good record from a health and safety and noise point of view.

“It was reported before Christmas we were having issues with noise but that is no longer the case.”

The building work will go full steam ahead and people will be able to see the shape of the incinerator unfolding.

Mr Carey continued: “Over the summer we’ll continue this work and in September we’ll stack the chimney.

“It will go up in four sections over three days.

“You can already see elements showing the full height of the building, by early 2014 the cladding will be going on and you’ll get to see the full shape.”

The plant will generate steam and electricity to be used in Devonport Naval Base.

The incinerator will take household waste from Plymouth, Torbay and South Devon.

As part of its planning consent conditions, MVV will pay the local community £150,000 a year.

The £150,000 will be administered by the North Yard Community Trust.

Earlier this year, MVV with City College Plymouth launched a bursary scheme to allow small businesses to take on young apprentices.

MVV has offered the first bursary to domestic refurbishment firm Papillon Installations.

25 Jul 2013

Stopping Devonport incinerator could cost Plymouth £400m

Stopping the construction of the incinerator in Devonport would cost almost three times as much as actually building it, council legal advisors claim.

The remarkable figures come from legal experts hired by the local authority who estimate the cost of breaking the contract with Germany-based MVV Environment Devonport Limited – would be £400m. The cost of building the plant is put at £140m.

The Labour administration that opposed the project in the run up to this year’s elections – and has since come to power – says it is now looking at ways to halt building work.

Plymouth City Council asked law firm Foot Anstey to investigate the implications of scrapping the huge project. They concluded the move would involve “prohibitively expensive” levels of compensation to developers – possibly in excess of £400million.

In reports revealed to The Herald, they state any decision to withdraw from the contract is likely to be deemed “unreasonable and unlawful” at a judicial review.

The experts also said they could not find any grounds to revoke planning consent.

Council Leader Tudor Evans said: “We feel very strongly that too many decisions about the incinerator have been behind closed doors.

“This administration is committed to openness and transparency and that’s why we are making these reports available at the earliest opportunity. The people affected by these plans have a right to know the full facts. We don’t want any more discussions to be held in secret or reports being redacted so they are meaningless.

“We will be ensuring the reports are discussed in public and that anyone unable to come to the meetings can view them online.”

The firm concluded: “From our examination of the material there are no rational grounds to consider withdrawing from the current contractual arrangements.

“Any decision by the Council to withdraw from the contractual agreements will in our view be found to be unreasonable and unlawful.”

Plymouth City Council voted last month to “investigate the options available which would prevent the plant being constructed in its current location”.

MVV’s Dirk Pohlmann has this month denied rumours that the initial building work was falling behind schedule.

Preliminary work has been in full swing at the site for several months, he said.

The energy from waste plant will handle up to 245,000 tonnes of rubbish a year from Plymouth, Torbay and South Devon. It is planned to start working in 2014.

The report by Foot Anstey into whether it is feasible to revoke the planning consent will be considered by a special meeting of the Planning Committee at 2pm on Thursday. Their second report, into the feasibility of withdrawing from the contract, will be considered at a special Cabinet meeting at 5pm on the same day.

18 Aug 2013

Town celebrates victory over Plymouth Incinerator

Keith Rossiter

Residents of a small Devon town are celebrating victory in their fight against the company building the Devonport incinerator.

Buckfastleigh, 20 miles east of Plymouth, has spent the past two years locked in a David and Goliath-style battle with MVV Environment Devonport Ltd over plans to process incinerator bottom ash in the town.

Delighted townsfolk learned yesterday that a planning inspector had decided in their favour.

Residents are filmed celebrating outside Whitecleave Quarry. (Plymouth Herald)

And alternative sites in Plymouth appeared to have been ruled unlikely in a report by planning inspector John Woolcock.

MVV, a subsidiary of the German giant MVV Umwelt, working with Gilpin Demolition, planned to put an ash processing plant in Whitecleave Quarry at Buckfastleigh.

MVV said the Buckfastleigh plant would recycle construction and demolition waste, and incinerator bottom ash.

The proposal was turned down by Devon County Council planning committee last year. MVV appealed, and an inquiry was held in June this year.

After the Planning Inspectorate yesterday refused the appeal Paul Carey, MVV’s managing director, said: “We are disappointed and will be reviewing the reasons for refusal before deciding whether there are grounds to challenge the decision.

“We will also be looking to find other sites where we can meet our obligations to recycle incinerator bottom ash and use it in local markets.”

Simon Rines, of the Buckfastleigh Community Forum, which led the fight, said there would be a celebration in the pub last night. “The MVV proposal has been opposed by local people in a parish poll, by MPs and councillors, by Devon County Council and now by a planning inspector.

“I really think it’s time MVV left this community alone. We have suffered for two and a half years with this hanging over us.”

He said the community forum had believed it had a strong case, “but we knew we were up against a multinational with deep pockets”.

The inspector considered three alternative sites – at Ernesettle Lane and Moorcroft Quarry in Plymouth, and Heathfield in Exeter. He said it was unlikely that any of the three could be guaranteed.

Alison Seabeck, MP for Plymouth Moor View, said: “I wrote to MVV twice to seek reassurance that there was a plan B.

“MVV were confident their appeal would be successful and they were not able to reveal plans for other potential sites because of commercial sensitivity.

“Now the managing director is saying they will be ‘looking to find other sites’. I do hope he knows the clock is ticking, and my constituents are quite rightly asking whether the plant would be allowed to operate without a solution which is in accordance with the original waste plan.”

Mr Carey said later that the decision would not delay the planned opening of the energy from waste plant.

“We have to remove the ash on a regular basis and take it away from the site, but there are facilities we can use further afield.”

He said MVV would have to bear the extra cost, and not the councils which will use the incinerator.

Mr Carey refused to name other potential sites for an ash processing plant.

Julia Wilton, co-chair of Buckfastleigh Community Forum, said: “I think that there will be a lot of questions that need to be answered as to why our community had to go to such lengths to stop this plan.”

18 Oct 2013

Ban on starting Plymouth incinerator until ash site is found

Keith Rossiter

The Plymouth incinerator will not be allowed to “light up” until its operator has found a site to treat bottom ash, says city council leader Tudor Evans.

And this will not be in Plymouth, he said yesterday.

An activist is demanding an inquiry into how work started on the North Yard incinerator before the operator, MVV Environment Devonport, had a site to handle leftover ash.

A planning inspector last week delivered a setback to MVV when he upheld a decision by Devon County Council to refuse permission for an ash processing plant at Buckfastleigh, 20 miles east of Plymouth.

Lynne Hayden of the anti-incineration group PlymWIN said they had consistently argued that Plymouth City Council had fudged “Condition 8” of the planning agreement.

She said Condition 8 was meant to ensure that MVV had a locality to process incinerator bottom ash (IBA) in place before the main build of the incinerator took place.

“We are asking the council to formally and fully investigate the actions of the planning officers,” she said.

“We now know the company never had a Plan B and could now be forced to transport toxic ash hundreds of miles.

“Condition 8 was meant to be the safeguard that meant that a suitable location near to Plymouth was found to process IBA in the most sustainable way.”

Ms Hayden also called on the council to call an immediate halt to work on building the incinerator until a sustainable location for processing the toxic ash is found.

A council spokeswoman said: “The condition 8 being referred to did not specify or require where the bottom ash would go, but it did set out that at least 95per cent of it should be recycled, not used for landfill, and used if possible for local construction projects.”

And Cllr Evans said: “I have made it clear to members of the South West Devon Waste Partnership that the incinerator will not light up until MVV provides a solution as to where to treat the bottom ash.”

Paul Carey, the MVV managing director, said: “We are obliged to recycle 95per cent of the IBA and to try to use it locally. We will comply with that.”

22 Oct 2013

So many fudges over incinerator

Nick Spargo, letters

Tudor Evans has called for the incinerator to remain unlit until a site has been found to process the bottom ash it produces (The Herald, October 22). The same article states that Condition 8 of the planning agreement was “fudged”. Is anyone really surprised at this? The whole project is filled with fudges from start to finish.

Fudge1 – When a new means of disposing of domestic waste was required, incineration was the only method of disposal that was investigated. No attempt was made to evaluate autoclaving with anaerobic digestion or plasma gasification neither of which methods produces the toxins, huge amounts of ash and carbon dioxide associated with incineration.

Fudge 2 – This whole ill-advised scheme was approved by a small number of city councillors operating in camera, none of whom represent the ward most directly affected.

Fudge 3 – An independent investigation had been carried out earlier to identify a possible site for an incinerator.

This was found to be at the Coypool china clay works; the report is on the city council website, so councillors and planning officers should certainly be aware of it.

Some vague excuse of it would be too expensive to buy the site was given for not using it; but this doesn’t really hold water as an article printed in The Herald ( April 5, 2011) stated that the planned incinerator would cost £560 million less than expected.

Fudge 4 – International guidelines state that incinerators should not be built within 200 metres of people’s homes; this one is within 65 metres of the nearest home. Planning officers and the Environment Agency would surely have been aware of this restriction so it really does look very strange indeed that the project was given planning permission.

Fudge 5 – Council Tax Payers have been assured that the incinerator will use the latest German technology.

This begs the question why incinerators are no longer being built in Germany; instead they are moving to autoclaving with anaerobic digestion, more than 3,500 installations at the last count. I could give more examples, but one thing is certain, something with that many fudges in it is not going to end well. Perhaps it would be best if the council stopped the construction of the incinerator, and used some of the £560 million “saved” to acquire a site at Lee Moor, build a plasma gasification plant and process waste there.

For £250 million a plant could be built that would process 1,000,000 tonnes a year, four times the capacity of the incinerator for the same price. This installation would generate revenue for the city council, excess gas to generate electricity and can actually reduce carbon emissions and all this without a fudge in sight.

29 Oct 2013


  1. jenny smith says:

    Does no one understand that the repetitive continuous noise generated at night from this incinerator (which should be silent ) is Psychologically damaging to health and well being
    Its not ships i have checked and these are stopped sometimes same day of complaint. They have got to be joking 24/7 operation of plant !!
    Volume depends on wind direction but being subject to this noise picked up by subconscious will have you awake at night. your kids restless (these more affected) and you will feel tired and rundown without knowing why! 3 nights of repetitive low level noise and i am awake most of the night. Do want to shut my windows No that’s not healthy either.

    They will have to spend more money on insulation for all noise we do have silent nights at the dockyard 9/10 Will this be a thing of the past!

  2. K Knight says:

    Not only noise but smells too, regular odours, its been delightful, summer was ruined due to the smells, who wants to spend time in their garden with a surrounding rubbish dump smell, we are literally living in a rubbish tip. And now we have flies too, it is shocking and a complete risk to public health. Give it 20 years then we’ll be studying the impact and the statistics of people falling ill in the Weston Mill/St budeaux area. And what a waste of money trying to pretty the whole thing up with fairy lights in the evenings, ridiculous, very theatrical so apt seeing the whole mask is an act, we are being manipulated!!!!! It’s a disgrace.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *