A FORMER Wiltshire councillor has accused Northacre Renewable Energy of ‘insulting’ Westbury people’s intelligence following the company’s virtual community engagement meeting on Tuesday.

And Westbury Gasification Action Group members who logged into the virtual community engagement event organised by NRE said it had failed to answer some of their questions.

Margaret Cavanna, of WGAG, said: “Many have said it felt like a box-ticking exercise as several of the questions we were asked to submit in advance were left out.

“WGAG will be requesting this whole process be deferred in view of the exceptional circumstances.”

The joint venture company between Swindon-based Hills Group and Bioenergy Infrastructure Group is proposing to change the technology for its Northacre waste incinerator facility from gasification to conventional moving grate combustion.

It wants to submit a planning application to Wiltshire Council this month or next with the hope of getting a decision by the end of the year.

David Jenkins, a former ward member for the town, described the company’s presentation as “very poor”.

He said: “Their presentation in my view has insulted the intelligence and integrity of the community.

“I was looking forward to a well-rehearsed visual presentation. Instead, we got photos and a verbal presentation by consultants. The details on the slides were very small and almost unreadable.

“They gave several complicated illustrations as to what the incinerator was about, together with a photo of the layout which was very cleverly taken to show it was not near the community.”

“Two large housing estates are at present being built or about to be built within close proximity to the incinerator let alone existing properties that are currently on their doorstep.

“NRE are using the current lockdown restriction to their advantage. If they were considering the community properly they would have done a professional presentation so that the people can actually see the speakers or considered a live platform enabling residents to ask questions.

“If Northacre Renewable Energy had any consideration for the community they should wait until such time as they can speak to people face-to-face. This was proved by the fact that they only had seven questions, one of which was mine which was ignored.

“It is evident they want to expedite the process as quickly as possible so they can start to build their incinerator. To me it’s a case of profit before people.

“My question was: as you will be spending £200 million pounds on an incinerator why don’t you defer until conditions permit to have a proper consultation with the public? It’s important that you value the community, they are extremely concerned over your proposal.

“It will mean waiting but it’s a small request for such a large amount of money. It’s all about people or is it a submission of application and hope for a decision by Christmas?

“They confirmed in the presentation that it is exactly what they are going to do ASAP. I am not a NIMBY and, as a retired councillor, the great community of Westbury and surrounding area deserve to be treated better.

“I am very surprised that the company Hills, who keep telling us they are a family company, have allowed NRE to treat the public with the total lack of professionalism.

The majority of the community are probably unaware that this application is being prepared, especially those who are restricted due to the virus, and there are many that don’t have computers etc who are being ignored.”

Northacre Renewable Energy claims the electricity generated will boost the local electricity supply network, unlocking development on the surrounding employment zone on Northacre Industrial Estate and nearby Hawke Ridge Business Park.

Once operational, the Northacre facility will support 40 permanent, skilled jobs. During the construction phase, at peak activity, there will be around 450 construction workers employed.

NRE expects to submit the planning application to the local authority in July or August.

If it is approved, the company is expected to submit its Environmental Permit application to the Environment Agency immediately afterwards.

Further details on the proposals can be viewed at www.northacre-energy.co.uk.