Anti-incinerator DVD lanched at public meeting in Gloucestershire
Concerned residents crowded into a public meeting in Stroud last night for the launch of a new DVD - the latest strategy in the growing fight to halt the county council's plans to build a giant £500 million incinerator on the outskirts of Gloucester.
Produced by campaign group GlosVAIN, The Towering Incinerator states its case against the controversial incinerator proposed for Javelin Park, near Haresfield. This follows the county council's decision on Wednesday to award a 25-year contract to Urbaser Balfour Beatty to build and run the giant waste disposal plant, despite strong opposition from the likes of NHS Gloucestershire, Stroud District Council and the Cotswold Conservation Board, on health, environmental and financial grounds.
Chairing the meeting at The Old Town Hall Meeting Room in the Shambles was GlosVAIN's Sue Oppenheimer - a staunch campaigner against the incinerator since it was first proposed by the county council in 2007.
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"I first became involved because I live quite near the proposed site," she said. "Also, I am chair of the parish council in Standish, so I couldn't just sit back and let this happen. We at GlosVAIN didn't realise three-and-a-half years ago, when we said that we had to do something about it that, in three-and-a-half years' time, we'd still be trying to do something about it."
An audience of more than 100 watched as The Towering Incinerator stated its case. Many were visibly shocked as the film, complete with 3-D graphics, demonstrated the sheer size of the proposed incinerator and the visual impact it would have on the Gloucestershire skyline.
Stating that the planning height limit on this site, set by the Secretary of State, is 15.7 metres, the film went on to inform the audience that this set limit is the height of the smallest part of the incinerator. Intended to protect the view to and from the Cotswold Escarpment, it claims that the proposed incinerator is more than three times this limit, with a chimney measuring 70 metres.
The film's graphics - which are to scale and produced using information made available by Urbaser Balfour Beatty - and commentary offered a stark insight into just how large the incinerator would be in comparison to neighbouring Blooms garden centre, and was seen to dwarf St Peter's Church at Haresfield and Gloucester Cathedral.
"The incinerator would be a large industrial power station - probably the tallest structure to be built in Gloucestershire since the nuclear power stations at Berkeley and Oldbury," the film claimed."You can see the sheer immensity of the building when compared with Gloucester Cathedral at 69 metres, St Peter's Church at Haresfield (28 metres) and Blooms Garden Centre.
"Why are Gloucestershire County Council proposing to allow this? We believe it's because the council owns the land and has no concerns for the natural beauty of the area. It's not suprising that the Cotswold Conservation Board, Natural England, Stroud District Council and the Campaign to Protect Rural England have all strongly objected to this incinerator, because of the visual impact."
At the point at which the commentator stated "the county council claims that this will be a landmark building acting as a gateway to Gloucestershire," the crowd erupted into laughter - summing up the general feeling of bemusement and cynicism shared within the meeting house over the county council's plans.
The film also highlighted the possible risks posed by the incinerator to the local environment and the health of those living and working within its vicinity, claiming: "It [the incinerator] will be there for at least 25 years, producing large amounts of CO2 and contributing significantly to climate change. If you live within a 25-mile radius of Javelin Park you could be adversely affected by the toxic plume from the chimney, which contains dioxins, mercury, heavy metals and cadmium."
In summing up, the film went on to claim: "The business case for this incinerator has collapsed. It will not save money and will be more expensive than alternatives. The inflexible 25 to 30-year contract won't adapt to future change and the incinerator could become redundant due to more recycling and technological advances.
"Future EU legislation will mean we have to recycle and compost, rather than burn waste - the incinerator would become an expensive white elephant."
When the film finished, Ms Oppenheimer asked the stunned audience: "So, what are your initial reactions to the scale and impact of this incinerator?" "Shocked... horrified" came the overwhelming response.
Surprisingly, the overriding concerns voiced in the ensuing debate focussed not on the potential health hazards posed by the incinerator, but more on the potential financial risks to the county's council tax payers.
GlosVAIN states that the incinerator will cost £500 million, paid for by taxpayers - representing one of the largest contracts the county council has ever entered into, and that there are "serious concerns about the council's financial calculations and forecasts of waste production". "The council claims that, over the 25-year period, they will save £150 million, as compared to continuing to use landfill. However, the council's forecasts of waste production are seriously flawed and we estimate that it will in fact cost the taxpayer as much as £105 million. However, it will provide huge profits for the contractor and their bankers."
Stroud district councillor, David Drew, present at the meeting, said: "Stroud District Council is unanimous in its objection to this proposal. We would like to get this decision by the county council called in by the Secretary of State. The county council has failed to consult with any of the district councillors over this matter, and has made no attempt to engage in any kind of consultation process.
"Because of this lack of consultation, it's taken a long time for the general populus to realise the impact this incinerator could have. People have not got angry yet.
This is a crass decision on the part of the county council, and if this incinerator does happen, it will be the biggest financial disaster faced by the council tax payers of Gloucestershire."
* GlosVAIN's new DVD, The Towering Incinerator, is now available to view on its website at http://www.glosvain.info