Has good sense gone up in smoke?

Protestors young and old  gather outside Allerton Park quarry  near Knaresborough as North Yorkshire County Councillors were attending for a site visit, with the Brown siblings from left Polly, 10, Isabel, 11, and Ben, 8, protesting.
Protestors young and old gather outside Allerton Park quarry near Knaresborough as North Yorkshire County Councillors were attending for a site visit, with the Brown siblings from left Polly, 10, Isabel, 11, and Ben, 8, protesting.

The controversial plans for a massive £250 million waste incinerator plant in the North Yorkshire countryside near Knaresborough are to be decided by county councillors next Tuesday.

The planning application for waste incinerator, submitted by AmeyCespa, will be considered by North Yorkshire County Council at what is expected to be a packed meeting at county hall.

It will be one of the biggest projects before the county council in recent years.

Campaign groups have been battling the scheme for years, and are now mounting a final push in their efforts to prevent the multi-million pound facility getting the go ahead.

More than 100 protesters from North Yorkshire Waste Action Group (NYWAG) picketed the Allerton Park site on Tuesday, October 23 as county councillors arrived for a site visit before the crucial planning meeting.

NYWAG and a group of nearby parish councils are planning last ditch appeals to councillors at the meeting, but campaigners are furious that a 10,000 name petition opposing the plans is set to be ignored.

The petition was presented to the county council in December 2010, but has been ruled inadmissable, according to a council report, as it arrived before the planning application was formally submitted in September 2011.

NYWAG spokesman Bob Schofield said: “We are up against the big machinery of local government, and the official recommendation to the county council is to approve it.”

“Our objections have not changed. This plan is the wrong technology in the wrong place. It is too big and too expensive – it will cost a fortune. And it is too inflexible as we recycle more of our waste in the future.”

“Waste incineration is an outdated technology that is already falling out of favour in many European countries where it has been used in past, and as more and more waste is recycled the site will rapidly become too big for the amount of waste North Yorkshire households can generate, opening up the possibility of waste being trucked in from other council areas in a bid to feed the incinerator with enough waste to keep it burning. Mr Schofield added.

Ferrensby resident Frank Farmer has been working with the parish council groups against the plans.

He said: “We are on the cusp of a lot of new technology in waste, but this incinerator is like being in the wild west, and the American army ordering 20 years worth of bows and arrows just as the Gatling gun is being invented.”

And, they say, Allerton Park’s rural location away from homes and businesses makes the technology even more inappropriate.

“The EU say incineration is only better than landfill when there is a combination of heat and energy generated.

“Because this plant is in the countryside there is no use for the heat, and without heat the EU consider incineration to be worse than landfill,” Mr Schofield said.

But the campaigners are also worried about the huge impact the incinerator could have on the surrounding North Yorkshire countryside, and have produced impressions of the view the plant from around the area.

“It’s a horrible image that should not be anywhere near North Yorkshire,” Mr Farmer said.

“This will be visible for tens of miles, from Sutton Bank, from the Dales and the Wolds,” Mr Schofield added.

Even North Yorkshire County Council’s official report on the scheme acknowledges the landscape harm caused by the plant cannot be mitigated.

The plans has also met objections from Harrogate Borough Council, whose own planning committee voted to strongly object to the scheme.

“If this were any other kind of scheme, other than an incinerator, it would be decided on by Harrogate Borough Council instead of North Yorkshire County Council, and they have already objected to it,” Mr Schofield said.

The county council has come in for harsh criticism for the finances behind the scheme.

The scheme has already cost the council nearly £6 million in consultancy fees alone until August this year.

The campaigners admit the county council’s planning committee is unlikely to turn down AmeyCespa’s plans, but are instead hopeful the Secretary of State will call the major plan in for an independent inquiry by the planning inspectorate.

The strong objections registered by Harrogate Borough Council and local MPs should bring it to the planning inspectors’ attention, they said.

Mr Schofield added: “The National Planning Casework unit has said they want to see everything submitted to North Yorkshire County Council, so I think that suggests they recognise this is important.

“If it does get called in we think we will win the case argument.

“We want to get this in front of an planning inspector to have the case against it independently assessed.”