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Victory for campaigners against Waterbeach waste incinerator

Campaigners are celebrating the news that a giant waste incinerator will now definitely not be built on the edge of their village.

The decision was met by delight by the campaigners, who said the victory was "testament to the passion, hard-work and commitment of residents" across several fen edge villages who fought the plans and were "united in their opposition to the incinerator".

Developers Amey wanted to build an incinerator at Levitt’s Field in Waterbeach which would have been taller than Ely Cathedral and visible for miles around, especially at the nearby historic Denny Abbey complex.

Cambridgeshire County Council refused planning permission for building on the grounds that it would have a detrimental impact on the landscape and nearby historic buildings, but Amey appealed that decision last year at an inquiry.

Campaigners against the incinerator plant at Waterbeach with Jazz Seamarks 18 (centre) who started a crowdfunding campaign to fight the proposal. Picture: Keith Heppell. (36690227)
Campaigners against the incinerator plant at Waterbeach with Jazz Seamarks 18 (centre) who started a crowdfunding campaign to fight the proposal. Picture: Keith Heppell. (36690227)

Now Robert Jenrick, Secretary of state for for Housing, Communities and Local Government, has turned down the appeal.

The statement in the appeal decision said: “The appeal scheme was not in accordance with local plan policies in relation to protecting local character, built and natural heritage, and conflicted with landscape and historic environment policies and design policies covering renewable and low carbon.”

It added: “The Secretary of State agrees with the inspector that the proposed development would harm the setting of important designated heritage assets that comprise the DAC (Denny Abbey complex), and this would significantly reduce the contribution that this setting makes to the significance of the assets.

Campaigners, Cambridge Without Incineration, are a group of local residents who raised thousands of pounds through crowdfunding to provide expert evidence against the proposal. They said tonight (Monday, June 15): “The victory is testament to the passion, hard-work and commitment of residents not only in Waterbeach, but from across the Fen edge and Cambridge communities, who were united in their opposition to the incinerator.

“Thousands signed a petition against the incinerator and raised thousands of pounds to pay for independent reports from one of the country’s leading landscape and climate impact experts. The incinerator would have blighted the Fenland landscape for decades to come and caused irreparable harm to the ancient setting of Denny Abbey, a listed monument, which stands only 500m away from the Amey Cespa boundary.

Artist's impression of the proposed Amey waste treatment facility. (36690252)
Artist's impression of the proposed Amey waste treatment facility. (36690252)

“Residents from Waterbeach and the surrounding area can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that the incinerator will not go ahead. Declining air quality is a pressing issue and linked to climate damage and the rise of asthma and other respiratory and chronic diseases. Fine particulate matter, a by-product of incineration, is thought to bind to viruses, such as Covid-19, recent research indicates.

“From the outset, CBWIN argued that the incinerator was the wrong solution to Cambridgeshire County Council’s waste and in line with the emerging minerals and waste Local Plan, argued there was no need for the outdated facility. We fully understand the need to move away from landfill but incineration is classified as the worst option. Incineration is at the bottom of the energy from waste hierarchy and is a disincentive to recycling. The Waterbeach incinerator would have seen waste from (more than) 11 counties being transported to the Waterbeach A10 site, requiring a continuous stream of rubbish as the site would be burning 24/7, every day of the year for 35+ years.

“CBWIN would like to thank everyone who helped in this campaign including those who signed our petitions and gave so generously to our fund raising. A special thanks must go to the following whose support has been so important to us during our campaign - our local MP Lucy Frazer and Heidi Allen and Daniel Zeichner for their support of the campaign. Many local residents, parish councils, district councillors, Cambridge Friends of the Earth, MEP Lucy Nethsinga, and local labour and green party groups also supported the campaign and spoke out against the incinerator. Significant evidence was presentedto the appeal against the incinerator by CPRE, Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial, Historic England, Michelle Bolger Landscape Consultancy and Only Solutions (on behalf of CBWIN) and UKWIN. We would like to thank them all.”

One of the main grounds on which the council rejected the incinerator was its effect on nearby heritage site, Denny Abbey. Amey, which already runs a recycling centre in Waterbeach, has offered a series of measure to ‘mitigate’ the impact on the historic monument.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) have warmly welcomed the news. Their chairman, Alan James, said: “We are very pleased this appeal has been dismissed. We were very concerned by the potential landscape impact of this massive structure, also by its potential to cause significant long term pollution of the local area. It would have led to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions as a result of burning materials which can now be recycled."

Cllr Aidan Van de Weyer has welcomed the decision to refuse planning permission for an incinerator at Waterbeach. “This is good news,” said Cllr Van de Weyer. “We need to reduce the amount of waste that people generate; we do not need new incinerators.”

“Air pollution from the chimney would have routinely affected not only Waterbeach but people living in Ely and Soham.”

A spokesperson for Amey said: "Amey is disappointed that the Secretary of State has upheld Cambridgeshire County Council’s decision to refuse planning permission to construct an Energy from Waste (EfW) facility at the company’s existing Waterbeach Waste Management Park in Cambridgeshire.

"Amey appealed Cambridgeshire County Council’s decision to refuse permission because we firmly believe our proposal has the potential to deliver genuine economic and environmental benefits for the local community. These include being able to generate energy to power 63,000 homes - including heating the 11,000 homes proposed for the Waterbeach New Town development - and reducing carbon emissions by more than 35,000 tonnes per year.

“We remain committed to working with the County Council and local community in South Cambridgeshire and we will carefully consider the decision taken by the Secretary of State before making further comment.”

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