Plain sailing as waste incinerators for east Leeds get go-ahead from councillors

Veolia's plant at Cross Green

Veolia’s plant at Cross Green

Councillors yesterday approved plans to build two waste incinerators within a mile of each other in east Leeds.

Waste incinerators? Think of them more as power stations that burn waste instead of coal, generating power for up to 73,000 homes.

The first to be approved at a lengthy session of Leeds City Council’s “strategic” plans panel will be built and run at Skelton Grange (near Junction 44 of the M1) by waste management specialists Biffa.

The £200m plant will burn up to 300,000 tonnes of commercial and industrial waste that currently goes to landfill. Biffa says the incinerator will generate enough electricity for 52,000 households.

The second – which had aroused much more controversy ahead of yesterday’s meeting – will be built and run by multi-national Veolia just one mile away on a former market site at Cross Green.

It will handle  all of Leeds ‘black bin’ waste, plus commercial and industrial waste up to an overall total of 214,000 tonnes a year. Up to 20% of the waste will be recycled. The rest will be burnt, generating power for up to 21,000 homes.

The £460m Veolia facility will be paid for by Leeds ratepayers over the 25 year life of a Private Finance Initiative contract signed by the company and Leeds City Council months ahead of today’s planning approval.

No vote against

Biffa's proposed plant at Skelton Grange

Biffa’s plant at Skelton Grange

In the end both applications pretty much sailed through: the plans for both were approved without a single vote against from any councillor.

There were no tough questions from councillors on the panel for the representatives of Biffa or Veolia.

No councillor spoke to present the case of the 673 people who had formally objected to the Veolia PFI scheme. None spoke to represent the views of their party colleagues, the six east Leeds councillors who had lodged objections to the plans.

And no question was asked about what it might be like to live 200 yards from a massive power station. Just a “What’s in it for the community?” from Cllr Walshaw – a one-time skeptic who has now seen the incineration light.

“You can’t see the chimneys!”

When the mock-up impressions of the plants came up on the presentation screen, there were suppressed gasps from members of the public, sat at the back behind the phalanx of suits.

“Where are the stacks? You can’t see the chimneys!” they hissed at each other.

The councillors hadn’t noticed. Or if they had, it didn’t merit a mention.

The lone dissenting voices came from a dozen protesters who gathered on the steps of the Civic Hall ahead of the meeting. And from two speakers, representing residents and Friends of the Earth, who addressed the panel.

Had an assessment been carried out of the region’s waste incineration capacity to establish whether Leeds needed its own facilities? they asked. No answer came.

Why hadn’t Biffa carried out any decent consultation to find out what the local community thought of the plans for Skelton Grange? they asked. Under planning law, they don’t have to, came the reply.

The two raised questions too about the health impact of the plants’ emissions – questions that were batted back with assurances from health and environmental professionals that there was nothing to be concerned about.

Granting planning permission is not quite the final step. They’ve still got to dot the “i”s and cross the “t”s on the legal agreements and conditions attached to both applications. But those should be formalities.

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7 Responses to Plain sailing as waste incinerators for east Leeds get go-ahead from councillors

  1. Mike Chitty says:

    Forget Reduce, re-use, recycle – its just Burn, baby burn….Potential for a largely civic based repsonse sacrificed to a big corporate response. Who would of thought it….?

  2. Paddle Daddle says:

    You need to check your facts Mike. The facility will include what the service calls a ‘dirty murf’ meaning that stuff that can be recycled will be taken out before anything is burned. Plus a large proporion of the residue can be used for building stuff. AND it will generate electricity.

    What would you rather have? Stuff dumped in the ground to rot down and poison for decades if not centuries????

    • Mike Chitty says:

      Ha! What I would prefer is for people to think about how they re-use, recycle and reduce. Not pick up the message that there is a ‘burn’ solution. We need to think about our personal and collective lifestyles not about how we pay and depends on the large multi-national service providers to apparently solve our problems.

      • Paul Thomas says:

        You sum up the whole green message well Mike: that providing a technical solution to the generation of waste and energy will undermine the moral message that we all need to rein in our oh so profligate lifestyles. Large scale solutions are exactly what we need to solve the problems of waste and energy generation, not the hair-shirt lifestyle politics of recycling and obsessing about our individual consumption.

  3. Charles knowles says:

    It’s a disgrace when there are very serious questions being asked about the suitability and sustainability of such methods of energy generation! Burning waste should not be an option on the whole, yes it could assist as part of a solution but we are indeed damning our children with this mess. A mess led on and pushed by the council to simply boost its short term coffers. Absolute disgrace. Then consider the so called ‘regeneration’ areas adjacent. Shot themselves in the foot again have Leeds Cc because no one with choice will want to live next to this thing so be prepared for more fruitless short sighted “investment” or even worse, more mass demolition…this is probably something ‘paddle daddle will think is a good idea…

  4. Francis - chemical engineer says:

    Let’s remind that incineration actually increase the amount of waste. I explain:

    1) During combustion we add air in excess, so the stoichiometry is more than 1, which means you put 1 waste + 1.2 air (O2 +N2). the oxygen reacts doubling the quantity of combustion products. Some N2 reacts also. If you don’t believe about the quantity of air used I invite you to have a look at the air fans dimensions.

    2) The control of NOx, SOx uses chemicals (NH3), or limestone. Add that + all the water for wet scrubbing processes.

    3) Activated carbons are used to capture mercury, dioxins ect.. Add that

    4) Natural gas is used during start-up. Add that, every maintenance cycle

    Basically you put 100 kg of waste in and get 200+ kg out as toxics and GHG. Well done..

    The energy recovery is not so efficient if compared with re-use or recycling. You have to think it terms of life-cycle of your waste products. What you get out of combustion of an item is nothing compared to that required to produce it.

    Hope this helps understanding a bit more about what actually happens.
    The most known toxic molecules come out of incinerators.
    Everything is up to our mentality.

  5. Pingback: The City Talking 42m Timber Arch Arrives at Leeds Energy Building

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