Controversial Bilsthorpe incinerator planning permission put on hold by Government minister

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Plans for a controversial incinerator plant at Bilsthorpe have been put on hold after a Government minister told Nottinghamshire County Council to postpone planning permission.

Local Government Minister Eric Pickles has instructed the authority not to complete its granting of planning permission for a new Energy Centre in Bilsthorpe, to allow him time to take a closer look at it.

The County Council’s Planning and Licensing Committee resolved to grant planning permission to Peel Environmental for the development on Tuesday (18th November) after more than four hours of debate, questions and presentations from the public, the applicant and local representatives.

However, Mr Pickles has exercised powers under Article 25 of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) Order to allow him to look into whether he should call in the application for him to determine.

The Council was informed in writing yesterday. In his letter, the Minister assured the County Council that the matter will be dealt with as quickly as possible and that the Council would be informed in writing when consideration was complete.

Council Planning Chair, Councillor John Wilkinson welcomed the Minister’s decision. He said; “For large planning applications with significant public interest, it’s not unusual for the Minister to scrutinise a planning committee’s decision and I welcome his decision to take a look at it.

“I know I speak for the whole planning committee when I say that the decision to grant consent, in the face of a lot of concern from the local community, was an extremely difficult one. Ultimately though, if the Committee decides to refuse an application, it must be confident and be able to demonstrate that there are sound planning reasons for doing so.

“I have every confidence that our officers and the committee gave full and proper consideration to the very latest Government guidance in considering the plans and that our decision-making processes were sound.

“The Minister’s scrutiny should provide additional assurance to the public that was the case.”

The committee had originally been scheduled to consider the application at its meeting on 21st October but it was postponed after the Government published new national planning policy and supporting guidance on the disposal of waste just five days before the meeting.

The postponement allowed the very latest guidance to be considered as part of the report and committee’s deliberations.

Mr Pickles previously used the same powers in Nottinghamshire in December 2013 to review the County Council’s decision to grant consent for a new surface coal mine at Shortwood, near Trowell. The Council was informed in July this year that he did not intend to call in the application, allowing the Council’s decision to stand.

If the decision to grant planning permission for the Peel Environmental application is ultimately given the go-ahead, it would see the construction of a new Energy Centre on designated employment land at the site of the former colliery - creating 46 permanent jobs and a further 300 during building works.

The centre would use the latest gasification methods to recover energy from rubbish, which previously would have been buried at landfill sites. It would process 117,000 tonnes of waste, recycling an estimated 15 per cent of it and using the remainder to create enough green electricity to power between 10,000 and 23,000 homes per year.

The centre would go some way towards addressing the 194,000 tonne shortfall in residual waste disposal capacity in Nottinghamshire.

For the centre to operate, it would require a licence from the Environment Agency, which provide safeguards to ensure it met strict environmental conditions.