Bingley Town Council has submitted the following objection to the Environment Agency’s proposed decision for a new bespoke application EPR/ZP3537AT/A001 for an environmental permit from Endless Energy Limited for Endless Energy Facility Airedale Road, West Yorkshire
Bingley Town Council objects to the building of a municipal waste incinerator at Marley and objects to the Environment Agency’s ‘minded to’ decision to grant a permit for the following reasons:
- Inadequate and not inclusive consultation with procedural unfairness: The current consultation and newsletter is all online. Despite the two week extension (from 4 to 6 weeks, then another two weeks), the consultation was announced ‘out of the blue’ and is being held over too short a period of time given the complexity of the information and the limited way in which it can be accessed. There are over 50 technical documents. However, none of the documents are publicly available as hard copies in local libraries or community spaces. The coronavirus pandemic is not a reason or justification to cut back on and reduce consultation. A consultation should be carried out when all members of the community can access the information if they choose to do so. This current consultation excludes those without internet access and digital skills. There are hundreds of pages and many large documents – too many for most householders with a computer to print out in order to read a hard copy. The restrictions on gatherings as a result of the emergency laws brought in to deal with the pandemic mean objectors are not able to hold meetings to discuss the consultation documents, or to hold lawful demonstrations. The consultation documents are not offered in formats for people with disabilities, for example a synopsis for those with learning difficulties or documents provided in large print or braille for people who are blind or have sight impairments. The Town Council, which has to decide collectively at meetings and follow processes for hiring sub-contractors and consultants, has not had sufficient time to consider hiring expert advice to inform its response to this myriad technical information. Had it been made clear at the start that the cut-off date was mid-August, the Town Council’s approach, and other organisations, may have taken a different approach. The consultation is therefore unfairly weighted in favour of the applicant, who has had time and resource to draw on experts, and the Environment Agency. There is clear procedural unfairness. Therefore, the consultation should be at least paused, better postponed, until equality of participation in the consultation can be achieved.
- Poor referencing of evidence and documents: the draft decision document does not clearly reference evidence presented elsewhere in the 50 or so other documents. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to match EA assumptions with the technical evidence on which they are based. For example, there is reference to an appendix containing details of the consultation process. However, there is no document with that title and detailed information about the consultation process, and what consideration has been given in particular to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, has proved impossible to locate.
- Lifespan and ongoing compliance: There is no information in the consultation documents about the possible lifespan of the incinerator and for how many years/decades it is planned that it will be operational. This brings into question the safety of many of the assumptions made in the draft decision document as there is no timeframe for the operation of the permit, no recognition that monitoring of the incinerator and other relevant standards may change – and no mechanism for ensuring that the permit may need to be reconsidered or reviewed or operations at the incinerator changed.
- Decommissioning: There is no detailed information about criteria, standards and timescale that must be met when the incinerator, if it goes ahead, is eventually decommissioned. This is gravely concerning, particularly given the acknowledged contamination of the land the incinerator will create and that it will not just be an eyesore but also a derelict eyesore in the valley. 4.2.3 of the draft decision document states that the permit cannot be surrendered unless a decommissioning plan is in place. But no consideration is given to a situation where the operator is unable to, or does not wish, to operate the plant, does not produce an adequate decommissioning plan, and how the Environment Agency intends and is able to force operation if it will not allow surrender of the permit. Technical details and a full process for permit surrender and decommissioning should be provided with clear sanctions for any breach.
- Concerns about noise, and the modelling and data used to predict noise levels: In the draft decision document, 6.5.5 Noise and vibration states that you “are satisfied that significant pollution from noise impact is not likely” and cite the information from the applicant’s assessment as evidence. However, the schedule 5 response note and document 0H800702 02 / 64 I 0001, show the noise modelling, originally carried out in 2013, was updated in 2016 and the attended noise monitoring dates from 2013. This is unsatisfactory and not contemporaneous evidence. Given the size, scale and impact of the incinerator, your decision should be based on more recent noise modelling and monitoring evidence. Additionally, rather than relying solely on the applicant’s information, which will of course seek to show limited impact, you should seek an independent assessment of likely noise pollution.
- Unsubstantiated assumptions about noise levels due to increased road traffic: The schedule 5 response noise note (which is undated) also states that “The background noise levels used in the assessment were captured in 2013. Since this time, it is likely that the number of vehicles on the surrounding road network has increased, as generally the number of vehicles recorded on the UK road network increases every year. If the survey were to be repeated at the current time, it is likely that elevated noise levels would be recorded as a result of increased road traffic on the surrounding network. Therefore, the background noise levels used are considered to provide a robust assessment.” Measurements from seven years ago are not adequate to reflect noise from traffic in 2020. Whilst the number of vehicles may have increased, no evidence is supplied to prove this. Nor is evidence provided about the amount of noise currently created by an average vehicle. Moreover, the current emphasis on Active Travel, the impacts of the recent coronavirus pandemic, the massive reduction in new car sales, the impending recession/slump, plus the ban of the sale of new diesel, petrol and hybrid cars from 2035 (announced Feb 2020) are all factors that will influence the amount and type of vehicles, and therefore the amount of noise from vehicles, now and going forward. One outcome may be that reduced noise levels from road traffic may occur. Therefore the background noise levels used as a basis for your proposed decision cannot be considered to provide a robust assessment and it is wrong to make assumptions about how intrusive the noise pollution for the incinerator will be based on out-of-date 2016 trends and 2013 data.
- Inaccurate modelling of pollution by the emissions: The modelling uses data from Bingley weather station, located 262m above sea level, whereas the proposed incinerator is at roughly 85m above sea level. This discrepancy in elevation means that the estimated dispersion of emissions from the incinerator is based on information from a weather station in a raised position where wind speeds, behaviour and direction is different from those experienced in the valley. The predicted pollution from emissions should be based on modelling from the proposed location of the incinerator. This would enable a more accurate assessment of pollution and likely emissions and enable more accurate prediction of compliance with official pollution limits – essential when the emissions are potentially lethal to humans and the environment.
- Lack of clarity about predicted emissions on Bingley: there is not a document, understandable by a lay person, which shows clearly how much pollution and emissions there will be over our town and surrounding villages – and what type of emissions in what quantity, and how often, will plume over our parish. This technical information should be provided so that people are fully informed about the impact of this incinerator on their homes.
- Cloud inversions: the draft decision document implies that emissions will be trapped under the cloud inversions that are a feature of the Aire Valley. This is likely to be the case but, also, given the height of the stack and the often very low-lying clouds, the stack may poke through with concentrated emissions being dispersed over higher lying hillside communities including Priestthorpe, Gilstead and Eldwick. Clear modelling should be required of the applicants to show how the incinerator will function and its emissions impact in its particular situation on the floor of a valley prone to cloud inversions.
- Concern about impacts on health, particularly nearby school children: In the draft decision document, p37, you say: “We are still satisfied that there will not be a significant impact on air quality or health when taking into account local weather conditions and the location in the valley.” You cite the modelling used and an audit you’ve undertaken, but you do not properly explain what exactly the level of impact on air quality or health will be. This lack of precision about the impacts of potentially lethal substances and processes has not answered residents’ queries and concerns fully and properly. Even the expert scientific opinion you cite on page 40 of the draft decision document, is yet to reach a conclusion and the PHE, whilst saying a municipal waste incinerator does not pose a significant risk to public health, does not specify what level of risk is posed. Again, residents need to be provided with this information. As you say on p47: “Taking into account all of the expert opinion available, we agree with the conclusion reached by PHE that “While it is not possible to rule out adverse health effects from modern, well-regulated municipal waste incinerators with complete certainty, any potential damage to the health of those living close-by is likely to be very small, if detectable.” We believe that until it is possible to rule out any and all adverse health effects, the incinerator should not be built and the permit should not be granted.
- No details about EA audit of dispersion modelling: on page 37, you refer to an audit of the applicant’s dispersion modelling, but no details of this audit are provided. This information should be made public so that proper scrutiny can be carried out.
- Bradford Council’s concerns: Bradford Council is concerned: “The proposed throughput at 148,000 tonnes is higher than the planning application of 100,000 tonnes per year.” Your response is ungrammatical and unintelligible: “Difference in throughput relate to the calorific value of the waste. We are satisfied that the impact assessment have been based on the maximum throughput as set in the Permit.” This discrepancy in throughput needs explaining properly.
- The incinerator will cause mental health issues (p131). Your response to this concern is inadequate: “Our view as set out in this decision document (section 5.3) is that emissions from the Installation will not have a significant effect on health. There is therefore no reason that there should be an impact on mental health.” No evidence is given to support this claim. Yet, there are many obvious ways in which a massive incinerator with a 200ft stack belching plumes of pollutants and emissions into the atmosphere of a green and attractive valley home to thousands of people will cause severe worry and stress to those of us who live here. Proper and robust research into the mental health impacts on communities of existing municipal waste incinerators should be carried out and considered thoroughly as part of your assessment.
- Monitoring emissions: We are concerned at the lack of clarity and process relating to how the Environment Agency may monitor emissions being released from the site and how they may carry out effective enforcement action, should the applicant be in breach of any permitted rights that may be granted.