Petitions 36 (Central Bedfordshire Council) and
38 (Bedford Borough Council
13. The two petitions of general objection are
close to identical and set out objections to the Order on five
broad grounds: the compulsory acquisition of council land; the
size and bulk of the facility; the perceived need to source waste
from beyond Bedfordshire; the type of technology proposed for
the Rookery South facility; and the impact on the Councils' functions
as a landowner, local authority, local planning authority and
SPECIAL LAND AND LOCAL AUTHORITY
14. The first of those, the compulsory acquisition
of council land, was the trigger for the invocation of the Special
Parliamentary Procedure. The land in question is 'special land',
but the Councils' ownership of it is restricted to there being
vested in them the surface and top two spits of land below the
surface in various plots on Green Lane, adjacent to the site.
The Order would give Covanta powers to install, keep installed
and maintain an electricity transmission line along a strip of
that highway land.
15. We chose not to restrict our hearings to
matters to do with compulsory purchase. None the less, we were
surprised that the case presented by the two Councils did not
touch in any significant respect on the matter of the compulsory
purchase of its land. Petitions Nos. 36 and 38 suggest that it
is unclear whether the compulsory purchase of the land might adversely
affect the two Councils' highway functions. In the absence of
any direct evidence on that point, we concluded that there was
clearly no case for Covanta to answer on it.
16. A similar situation applied in relation to
the fifth ground in the two petitionsthe impact on the
discharge of the two authorities' various functions as landowner,
and local, planning and highway authority. No significant evidence
was presented to us in direct support of the contention in the
petitions that the Order 'seriously undermined' the discharge
of those functions. Again, we concluded that there was no case
for Covanta to answer in respect of that point.
THE COVANTA FACILITY
17. The case presented by the two Councils was
focused much more strongly on the other three areas identified
in petitions Nos. 36 and 38the size of the facility, the
source of waste for the facility, and the technology to be used.
In each of these areas, substantial questions were raised, and
we considered those as follows.
SIZE OF THE FACILITY
18. The facility is of substantial size and,
it was clear both from the evidence presented to us and from our
visit to the site, that it would have a significant impact on
the local landscape, being visible from a number of nearby viewpoints.
We agree with the Infrastructure Planning Commission that the
size and scale of the facility are important and relevant in assessing
its acceptability. We
also agree that that size and scale are a major disbenefit.
However, it is equally clear to us that the area in which the
facility is to be sited has a long history of industrial development
and that the landscape contains other visual intrusions, albeit
none on such a major scale. Indeed, it became clear in evidence
that Central Bedfordshire Council has itself granted planning
permission for construction of a single wind turbine near the
proposed site. We have noted that, as outlined in paragraph 2
above, Covanta's proposed facility is classed as "a nationally
significant infrastructure project" under the Planning Act
2008; by its nature, it would therefore be bigger than average.
19. Although the size and bulk of the proposed
facility were a significant factor in our considerations, we concluded
that the Councils had not provided any overwhelming reason why
the Order should not be permitted in light of the objectives set
out in the two National Policy Statements under which permission
was originally granted.
SOURCES OF WASTE
20. We had considerable sympathy with the point
that the size of the facility is likely to mean that it will source
waste from locations beyond the county of Bedfordshire. The Order,
indeed, would permit Covanta to source waste from any location,
and not necessarily from within England or the rest of the United
Kingdom, although an effective catchment area of six administrative
areas surrounding Bedfordshire was much discussed during our hearings.
21. We noted that all waste delivered to the
site would arrive by road, in spite of the proximity of a rail
line to the site. There was some discussion during our hearings
about whether some or all of the waste could feasibly be delivered
by rail rather than by road, but none of the four petitions from
the two Councils proposed an amendment to the Order to that effect.
22. We noted arguments about the challenge Covanta
may face in sourcing enough waste to make the facility an economically
viable project, particularly given the award of some municipal
waste contracts in the area to other companies and the existing
and proposed capacity in the locality. Those considerations are,
however, a matter for Covanta and its financial backers rather
than for us.
23. In spite of some misgivings, then, about
both the size of the likely catchment area and the impact of increased
traffic both in the area surrounding Rookery South and beyond,
we were not persuaded that the two Councils had demonstrated sufficient
24. Finally in the petitions of general objection,
the two Councils argued against the technology to be used at the
proposed facility. Covanta intend to build a power station with
energy provided from waste. We noted arguments about the likely
impact on local recycling, and that recycling is higher in the
waste hierarchy than incineration is. We note on the other side
of the argument, however, that the Covanta plant will provide
the substantial benefit of a contribution to national energy policy,
and that creation of energy from waste will divert waste from
landfill, which is in turn lower in the waste hierarchy. Once
again, we concluded that the Councils had not demonstrated sufficient
6 Infrastructure Planning Commission, The Planning
Act 2008, Rookery South Resource Recovery Facility Order: Panel's
Decision and Statement of Reasons, 13 October 2001, para 5.49. Back
Ibid, para 5.58. Back