United - Luton’s political parties join forces against incinerator plans

The incinerator in Portsmouth
The incinerator in Portsmouth

The three main political parties on Luton Borough Council have united in their opposition to plans for a proposed incinerator near Luton Hoo.

Their stance comes days after it emerged a letter had been sent by a council officer and airport official in support of the scheme.

The letter sent by airport director of operations and council deputy chief executive Robin Porter has been retracted now.

The Luton News has been told it was “a big error of judgment”, which he has since apologised for and regrets.

The council said today: (Fri 24th) “We do not discuss individual staffing matters, but it is unfortunate the way this has played out and lessons have been learnt.”

Labour High Town councillor Andy Malcolm, who chairs London Luton Airport board, is thought to have been aware of Mr Porter’s letter, but did not realise it had been sent to Emsrayne Renewable Energy, the firm behind the project.

Vice-chairman of Stop the Harpenden and Luton Incinerator Nick Martin has  seen a copy of the letter, with the wording based on the applicant’s own scoping document, which is part of the planning process and visible online.

He said it appeared Mr Porter had topped and tailed the letter before returning it.

“It was very disturbing that it (the project) had the backing of the airport potentially.

“That’s why we asked the airport about the situation

“The scoping document is a public document. It’s enough to make people think if it’s being used for the airport it (the energy) might be useful.

The council released a statement last night (Thurs 23rd) saying its three main political parties are against the scheme.

It read: “Plans to build an incinerator at New Mill End have been opposed by all political parties on Luton Council.

“Burning 500,000 tonnes of waste a year will cause the polluted air to head straight to Luton.

“Monitoring of emissions at the site would be potentially more difficult and could pose a threat to health across the area.

“The only road access is totally unsuitable for the type of vehicles which would be used, and could mean a minimum of 50 lorries into and out of the site every day.

“The proposed site is an unnecessarily long distance from the access point for the national grid,” it adds.

“Making this connection would cause great disruption.

The letter is signed by council leader councillor Hazel Simmons for Labour, Liberal Democrat leader councillor David Franks and head of the Conservative group councillor John Young.

There would also be “adverse impacts” on airport access for passengers and the workforce which “would not be resolvable”, according to the statement.

It’s also emerged the firm behind plans for the incinerator failed to realise the borough council owned London Luton Airport, so ignored the local authority in its initial consultation.

Nigel Crane, who’s a technical director for S and I Consulting,  employed by Emsrayne on the project, said sorry for the mistake at a council executive meeting, last night. (Thurs 23rd.

“It’s clear from our end the stakeholder engagement process failed to identify Luton Borough Council, in effect the owner of London Luton Airport, as the principal stakeholder which should have been consulted in the very early stages,” he said.

“And we apologise for that misjudgment.

“We are presently assessing the potential impact on the highways infrastructure.

“It’s very clear that there are improvements which need to be secured, and delivered in advance of any construction stage
“We’ve made clear a commitment that will prevent HGVs either accessing or exiting in the southerly direction which might resolve issues local residents already have.

“On the issue of air quality, the reality is the prevailing wind is a south-westerly, so that’s certainly away from Luton..

He told the meeting the “air dispersal modelling” for the site would be closely monitored by the Environment Agency.

“There’s a logical conclusion the generation of local clean energy could be used by the airport and the associated infrastructure,” he said.

“We remain hopeful stakeholders in the region will continue to recognise the strategic opportunity the project will offer.

“This is in terms of employment, energy security, commercial advantage and sustainability for the long-term future of Luton borough, London Luton Airport and the local region.

Vice-chairman of Stop the Harpenden and Luton Incinerator Nick Martin said he was representing local residents, businesses and interested parties campaigning against the scheme.

“This is not a small scale development,” he told the meeting. “It’s a major industrial project. It’s the sixth largest incinerator in the country.

“This is the highest green belt land, on the edge of Luton Hoo estate which is full of Grade I and Grade II listed properties and landscape.

“It will have a serious and significant effect on the environment in which it sits.

There are 40 schools within a 5km radius of the site, which will be impacted by the pollution, according to Mr Martin.

“Measurements are taken over a 10km distance, which affects a huge part of Luton and the surrounding towns and villages,” he said.

“It produces 150,000 tonnes of landfill waste, 30,000 tonnes of which is fly ash, which is highly toxic..

Labour Challney councillor Tom Shaw said: “We’ve spent alot of work over the last two years on coming forward with our own green clean energy plan for the airport and everything else.

“In my view this will go directly against those plans.

“My comment is the views expressed at this stage are nowhere near strong enough. I would raise some very strong objections.

Farley Labour councillor Sian Timoney, who’s the portfolio holder for place and infrastructure (regeneration), replied that the response isn’t to a planning application, but to a consultation.

Labour Lewsey councillor Aslam Khan said: “Luton has one of the highest mortality rates for issues including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“It will add on to the health burden we already have. I am extremely concerned about the project..

And his Labour Lewsey colleague Jacqui Burnett asked: “Given that Central Beds has no end of green field land, how is it you only pick the piece of land that borders here in Harpenden.

“Central Beds is growing, you have a captive market there, and even Bedford borough is building no end of new homes, which we can’t build on our land.

“You have end users there, not just London Luton Aiport. You should look further in Central Beds.“They can benefit and our residents don’t have to take the risk of fumes,” she added.“If they’re prepared to endorse this it should be on their land for their residents to challenge..

Lea Bank Energy Park is the official name for the incinerator, which is designed for commercial waste.

The site is land off the Lower Harpenden Road between Luton and Harpenden.