THE company that wants to build a waste-to-energy incinerator at Westbury has hit back at criticism of its online virtual community engagement event.

Northacre Renewable Energy wants to change the technology for its Northacre facility from advanced thermal treatment gasification to conventional moving grate combustion.

Around 100 people listened in to its community engagement event on July 7 but afterwards some criticised the company's presentation.

Westbury Gasification Action Group and former Wiltshire councillor David Jenkins said some questions had gone unanswered and the company’s presentation was disappointing.

WGAG is asking for public consultation on NRE’s planning application to be deferred until after the Covid-19 lockdown ends, so that meetings can be held face-to-face, while South West Wiltshire MP Dr Andrew Murrison is being urged to request it be called in to be decided by Environment Secretary George Eustice.

NRE spokesman Simon Harris, said: “We are sorry to hear that some of the attendees found they could not hear the event very well, but the feedback in terms of the technical quality of the event as well as the content of it has been generally very positive.

“The event was extremely detailed, informative and interactive. We made every effort to answer all the questions that were lodged with us during the live event but any that we didn’t cover will be addressed in an expanded FAQs section of our website shortly.

“We have listened to the comments and questions from the local community. We wanted to make the event as open and accessible as possible to everyone in the community.

“We chose a solution involving audio conversation and a presentation online as this would consume less bandwidth than a video-conference and also could be followed via a conference call line.

“We are an open and transparent group and have discussed our plans with key local stakeholders including members of Parliament and the county council and local media, ahead of the virtual community event.

“We believe this is an important project that will be delivered during a time of significant economic uncertainty, representing a new source of employment including many highly-skilled permanent roles, as well as a very timely and overdue solution to Wiltshire’s growing waste management problem."

“The Committee for Climate Change has called for greater private sector investment in energy-from-waste capacity in the UK as part of the country’s path to a zero-carbon economy.

“The Government advice, last updated on July 3, is that conferences and exhibitions must not be held in person, unless the only attendees are employees of a single company.

“As a result, we held a virtual community event, lasting for 90 minutes, with 45 minutes of very detailed Q&A, including a number of very pertinent questions.

“We addressed topics including traffic, air quality and the change in technology in a very open and transparent way.

"Having this event available on-demand also means it is more accessible and available to a wider group of people and stakeholders than would have been the case had we been able to hold a traditional community event.

“As well as sharing the details of the virtual event with local media during the run-up to the event, we also emailed invitations directly to local stakeholders including MPs, representatives of the County Council, Town Council, local media and the Westbury Gasification Action Group, among other groups.

“Around 100 people attended the event live and we anticipate many more will follow it now that it is available to follow on-demand.

“The morning after the event, we emailed all those who registered to attend the event as well as local MPs, media and the WGAG to provide them with the link to the on-demand version as well as details regarding the submission of any supplementary questions during the pre-consultation process. This has also been included on the contacts page of the Northacre website.

“There has not been any compromise in the legislative process for the determination of planning applications, nor are we expecting there to be for our application. Statutory planning consultations have been carried out electronically for some years with applications available on the Council’s website.

“For example, Wiltshire Council held its first Strategic Planning Committee virtual meeting on May 13 and will, as needed, continue with this option. Preparation of this application commenced prior to the COVID 19 situation evolving and pre-application consultation before the summer holidays was part of that schedule.

“We will carry out pre-application consultation with the key stakeholders and whilst face-to-face discussions or meetings may not be possible, we are monitoring how government advice is evolving and will react accordingly. We will work with the Council every step of the way to ensure that this process follows the usual protocols and procedures.

“The Government has encouraged infrastructure investors and developers to press ahead with their projects as a vital means of supporting the economic recovery.

"Planning authorities have been provided with detailed guidance by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to make it easier for them to operate. These guidelines are well established.

“Our pre-application consultation process remains open until Friday, July 17 and we continue to invite feedback and questions. We would reiterate that anyone who had difficulty following the live event can follow it on-demand by clicking on our online link, which will remain active throughout the planning process.”

Anyone wishing to contact NRE can do so via email to, or at, or via the post to Northacre Renewable Energy, Davidson House, Reading, RG1 3EU.