17 March 2021
Campaigners are holding their breath as Surrey County Council has announced it is now in legal proceedings, which they hope will lead to the Council abandoning plans for its gasification incinerator in Spelthorne in north Surrey.
At the Council meeting on 16 March 2021, the Cabinet Member for Environment & Climate Change announced: “after exhausting other options available, we have now entered legal proceedings with Suez to resolve our issues. We hope to bring this to a swift conclusion to allow us to move forward with the Eco Park and resolve the matter.” SATEP had raised numerous issues, most of which remain unresolved.
The Council first approved an incinerator on this site in March 2012, and approved the current version in March 2014, despite strong opposition by local residents and campaigners. It was part of the Charlton Lane ‘Eco Park’ though campaigners say there’s nothing ‘eco’ about a waste incinerator of inefficient design, which would emit toxic pollutants and carbon dioxide, increase the transport of waste, and limit recycling.
Ever since, the Eco Park has been beset by technical and operational difficulties. It is a source of considerable disruption and concern to residents, affecting quality of life in the area and triggering health fears among the most vulnerable. The company that made the gasification plant has now stopped making them for municipal waste.
Adrian Corti, local resident and member of Spelthorne Against the Eco Park (SATEP) said: “Now is a time to cautiously celebrate in Spelthorne and across Surrey at this process which could spell the end to the Eco Park gasification experiment. We also hope that this is backed by a firm commitment to no other new forms of waste burning in Surrey, which will benefit the health, welfare and environment in many ways.
“Now is the time to right the wrongs that have got us here, rather than dwelling on the past. I hope we can finally put the last decade, which has been an absolute nightmare for local residents, behind us. It has brought us together as a community for the wrong reasons and is not something we would want to wish upon anyone else in Surrey.
“The Eco Park experiment has clearly demonstrated that gasification is not just dirty and dangerous, but a non-viable way of disposing of household waste.”
Local Green Campaigner Paul Hollingworth said: “We would like to thank those who have campaigned tirelessly over many years against these latest plans for waste incineration in Surrey, particularly the Spelthorne Against the Ecopark (SATEP) campaign. SATEP should be proud of their persistence. Also we would like to thank UK Without Incineration Network (UKWIN) for their support in highlighting the waste, climate and health impacts of incineration (which includes gasification technologies).
“The individuals and groups who opposed the Eco Park will stand strong in opposing any future attempts to impose incineration of waste elsewhere in Surrey.”
Jonathan Essex, Green Councillor for Redhill East said: “The Eco Park has been a complete waste of taxpayers’ money, which could have been used to improve the quality of life of residents.
“The case against incineration technologies, including gasification, continues to grow. Incinerators block investment in reuse and recycling, and lock-in carbon emissions. This is unacceptable as Surrey, among many other Councils, have declared a Climate Emergency.
“This week’s announcement should signal a shift in both Surrey County Council’s and the government’s strategy. Instead of pouring money into polluting technologies such as complicated and expensive waste disposal methods that create a perverse incentive to burn recyclable waste, it is time to shift investment to making it easier for all of us to reduce, reuse and recycle.”
Shlomo Dowen, Coordinator of the UK Without Incineration Network (UKWIN) said: "The Spelthorne gasification failure joins a long list of such false starts that have proven to be a costly distractions from building the facilities that are needed to make our economy ever more circular. UKWIN salutes the determination and persistence of local campaigners who helped Surrey Council start the difficult process which we hope will lead to end to plans for incineration in Surrey. We look forward to Surrey being freed to pursue a path towards greater resource efficiency that will bring environmental benefits alongside creating much-needed green jobs.”
Notes for Editors:
1. For the Council's announcement see https://mycouncil.surreycc.gov.uk/documents/b25465/Supplementary%20Agenda%20-%20Items%206%20and%2010%20Tuesday%2016-Mar-2021%2010.00%20Council.pdf?T=9 page 26
2. The Eco Park, including the latest design of the gasification plant, was granted on 14 March 2014.https://mycouncil.surreycc.gov.uk/mgconvert2pdf.aspx?id=12460
3. UKWIN set out the many reasons why people oppose incineration (including gasification technologies) here https://ukwin.org.uk/oppose-incineration/:
4. A report Zero Waste and Economic Recovery report, published in February 2021, shows that zero waste strategies deliver increased employment opportunities as well as reducing pollution and improving community health.
5. Photos of the Eco Park attached. Credit: Spelthorne Against the Eco Park (SATEP).