MEMBERS of the WGAG/No Westbury Incinerator Group have rejected claims that they have made misleading statements in relation to the controversial £200 million waste-to-energy incinerator planned for the town.

A joint venture company, Northacre Renewable Energy, owned by the Hills Group and a Bioenergy Infrastructure Group, was last year given planning approval by Wiltshire Council for an advanced thermal treatment plant on the Northacre Industrial Estate in Wesbury.

The company now wants to change the technology to moving grate combustion and has submitted another planning application to the council which has yet to make a decision on it. The company is also applying to the Environment Agency for an operating permit.

Earlier this month, NREL issued a statement saying it was easy for people opposing the Westbury incinerator to make misleading statements.

Marie Hillcoat, of WGAG / No Westbury Incinerator Group, rejected the accusation, saying more than 2,000 residents, 15 town and parish councils, and Westbury’s local MP Dr Andrew Murrison, had all objected to the scheme.

She said: “NREL’s Project Director writes in the statement ‘iIt is easy for misleading statements to be made by those who oppose facilities such as that proposed by Northacre Renewable Energy, regarding the performance of modern combustion technology’.

“Local people, who have spent years opposing NREL’s multiple planning applications for different types of incineration plant, are capable of understanding and assessing the technology.

“The performance of modern combustion technology is inefficient compared with modern gas-fired and nuclear power stations, particularly as NREL offer no prospect of using the heat from the combustion process or of capturing carbon emissions.

“Up to 40 per cent of the waste fed into the incinerator will come out as ash, some of which is classed as hazardous and has to be transported to specialised landfill.

“NREL’s project director, Alex Young, makes many ‘misleading statements’ himself. He writes that moving grate combustion technology has been ‘successfully and safely deployed across the UK and Europe for many years’

“On the contrary, there have been multiple breaches of environmental permits associated with incineration and ‘success’ is subjective. The safety of an incinerator is only as good as its operators.”

She added: “Will the incinerator be ‘successfully deployed’ if waste has to be driven into Westbury by HGV from across Europe to make it economically viable over the next quarter of a century?

“Is it a success if the plant contributes millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide to climate change?

“Is it a success if Westbury’s air quality continues to breach the legal limit because of emissions from the incinerator and HGVs full of waste passing through its centre?

“Mr Young claims that emissions monitoring has ‘become more sophisticated’. However, the Environment Agency has confirmed that environmental permitting does not require filtering of the smallest particulates from the gases which would be breathed by the people of Westbury.

“It is now known by all Directors of Public Health that these particulates are amongst the most damaging to health.

“In his letter to Wiltshire Councillors Mr Young says that technical consultees have raised no objections to the change from gasification to moving grate technology.

“He does not say that:

• Wiltshire Council commissioned a report from Exeter University’s Centre for Energy and Environment which concluded that NREL’s carbon assessment made incorrect assumptions, incorrectly comparing the incinerator with landfill and underestimating the plant’s carbon emissions by 278 per cent.

• It also concluded that NREL have not addressed ways in which carbon dioxide could be reduced e.g. by carbon capture and using heat locally.

• A moving grate incinerator not only burns fossil fuel-based waste such as plastic, but the process requires additional fuel oil, all contributing to climate change and poor air quality.

• NREL’s modelling of the impact of the incinerator on air quality and wildlife habitats is based on old data from RAF Lyneham (25 miles from Westbury) which has a completely different topography. Furthermore, there has been no independent technical report on air quality modelling.

• Out of those consulted on the planning application, Wiltshire Council’s air quality and ecology teams and Wessex Water have not yet produced any public response.

• Wiltshire Council’s drainage engineer has objected to the application on the grounds that the climate change impact on water courses has not been correctly assessed by NREL.

• NREL’s application is opposed by Westbury Town Council and more than 15 other town and parish councils. NREL have not engaged with or addressed the concerns of these stakeholders.

“Since July although over 2,000 objections have been received by Wiltshire Council’s planning department. NREL has only held one public consultation meeting for members of the public which was online.

“Mr Young says the ‘pressing need for a sustainable long-term solution to non-recyclable waste in Wiltshire’ would be met by an incinerator.

• On the contrary, because of its £200 million cost the incinerator would create a 25-year financial barrier to many and much more sustainable options.

• He omits to say that much of the waste going into the incinerator could be recycled, composted and reused, instead of being burnt, particularly commercial waste which will make up around 75 per cent of the feedstock.

• The incinerator would kick the can down the road instead of finding a more sustainable solution higher up the waste hierarchy as part of the Government’s Green Recovery and Wiltshire Council’s pledge to be carbon neutral by 2030.

“NREL’s business model is questionable in the face of a potential incineration tax and the high cost of its electricity compared with nuclear, solar and wind.

“The supply chains for 243,000 tonnes of waste per annum to feed its process are subject to the uncertainties of Brexit, post-Covid recession and competition with other incinerators which are already operating in the West Country.

“Finally, Westbury’s MP, Dr. Andrew Murrison opposes NREL’s application. In his objection to the planning application he writes “Northacre is unable to deny that its application to replace gasification with incineration would be a retrograde step in respect of key parameters – the threat to health, nuisance to the public and damage to the environment.”

Dr Murrison will be chairing an online debate for MPs and their constituents on incineration on Tuesday, December 8.

Those who wish to attend can sign up at: