High Court upholds BEIS decision to block major new incinerator

The High Court has dismissed a bid to overturn a decision from BEIS which blocked plans for a new energy-from-waste plant in Kent on grounds that the scheme could undermine the waste hierarchy.

Wheelabrator Technologies had sought development consent for a new energy-from-waste (EfW) plant, to be known as Wheelabrator Kemsley North (WKN), with a generating capacity of up to 42MW and an annual throughput of up to 390,000 tonnes of waste.

However, while consent was granted allowing the firm to expand its existing facility near Sittingbourne in Kent, the energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng refused to grant consent for the new incinerator, claiming it would lead to recyclable material being incinerated.

In a ruling handed down on 8 October, Justice Dover refused to overturn the decision from BEIS despite an “error of law” from Kwarteng.

Dover agreed that Kwarteng had failed to consider all of the relevant sections of the 2008 Planning Act in coming to his decision.

However, he agreed with BEIS that the decision “would have been the same, and certainly the outcome would not have been substantially different, without commission of the error of law which has been identified”.

Dover said that EfW facilities have an “important role to play in waste management”.

However, he added that it “has not been demonstrated that there is a need for the proposed development…. having regard to the evidence that has underpinned the formulation of Kent county council’s revised development plan”.

He added that while the generation of 42MW electricity would be “a benefit having regard to the need for all types of infrastructure", the energy generated would be “partially renewable at best”.

Dover also said that waste recovery capacity in Kent is “well catered” for by Wheelabrator’s K3 Facility and the FCC’s Allington plant, and said “there is no proven need for the plant to be located in Kent”.

In addition, he said the new incinerator “would justifiably put at risk achievement of the revised recycling and composting targets” in Kent.