Let's get the facts straight

The 'Stop the Harpenden Luton Incinerator' campaign group have published a list of so-called 'facts' on their website. These are largely unsubstantiated and factually incorrect. We want to make sure you're fully informed so we've brought all the SHLI 'facts' together, along with information about the details of the proposals. 

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The ‘Harpenden Luton giant Incinerator’ - It’s actually a combined heat and power facility (CHP) which burns refuse derived fuel (RDF) to create electricity and heat. The proposed site, though close, is neither in Harpenden or Luton. (Oh, and we're not planning to incinerate any giants!)

‘property speculator Emsrayne’ - Emsrayne Renewable Energy Ltd is a renewable energy company operating two solar farms in Central Bedfordshire, now expanding into energy from waste.

‘the size of Harpenden high street / The Mall in Luton. The incinerator will be 15 storeys high with an 80-100m high chimney.’ - The proposals are for a CHP facility 214m long by 89m wide. See plans here and here. By comparison, the Mall is 440m and Harpenden High St is 480m (Sun Lane to Station Road) - both more than twice as long. The stack will be 100m high to enable effective dispersal of any remaining emissions after the mitigation processes.

‘It will burn 500,000 unsorted stinking black bag refuse each year’ - The facility will consume 500,000 tonnes of refuse derived fuel, or similar non-recyclable material which would otherwise end up in landfill. The RDF will be brought into the site in sealed vehicles, to be emptied into an enclosed tipping hall and kept under negative pressure to control odours.

An HGV will arrive and leave every 2.5 minutes all day.’ - An estimated total of 256 daily journeys will be necessary to maintain operation. This equates to a traffic increase of just 1.88% on the B653, which currently sees 13,603 vehicles using it daily. 

‘highest rated green belt in an Area of Great Landscape Value’ - All green belt land is afforded the same amount of protection. There is no rating system. A landscape character assessment has been carried out and designs aim to minimise landscape impact wherever possible. 

The term "Area of Great Landscape Value" has been superceded in Central Bedfordshire Council in 2016, and Landscape Character Assessments are now used. 

‘Situated alongside the River Lea with its unique chalk stream.’ - The Lea at Wheathampstead is not officially classified as a chalk stream because a large proportion of the flow consists of treated effluent from the sewage treatment plant at East Hyde. This means that the river is cleaner than most rivers in England but the high levels of phosphates and nitrates disqualify it as a chalk stream. (This information was previously published by Wheathampstead Parish Council)

The river has been taken into account in the hydrological and hydrogeological reports, as well as ecological assessments and impacts from the construction and operation of the facility will be fully assessed. The site design will manage surface water so as to protect hydrological features and no off-site connections to the River Lea are anticipated. 

‘Incinerators are the leading source of dioxins in the environment.’ - A report published by the EU in 2009 found that waste incineration accounted for just 5% of atmospheric dioxins, compared to 22% from residential combustion. Emissions limits from CHP facilities are the responsibility of the Environment Agency, who will not issue a permit for operation if they consider the facility poses any risk to human health or the environment. Atmospheric dispersion modelling has been carried out to determine the height and position of the stack, in order to ensure effective dispersal of any remaining content after mitigation.

‘Dioxins have been linked with many cancers and neurological damage.’ - Public Health England issued a statement in 2010; “While it is not possible to rule out adverse health effects, any potential damage to the health of those living close-by [to CHP facilities] is likely to be very small, if detectable.” (Report RCE-13)

‘This plant will run 24/7 with constant noise pollution and light pollution at night.’ - Site design experts consider these factors when planning the layout of the facility. Noise pollution will be mitigated by placing noisiest elements of the process at the end of the site furthest from residential neighbours, soil bunds and insulation of the building and the plant within. A lighting plan will form part of the planning application and will take into account the impact of lighting on residential properties, ecology, heritage, landscape and site safety. Find out more here.

‘Pollutants will exacerbate the already poor air quality in Luton.’ - The Environment Agency maintain strict regulations on the emissions from facilities such as LBEP and the site will be regularly inspected. A typical CHP plant dedicates around 30% of its facility to the mitigation of emissions, and measurements of all components in the emission fall within of the Industrial Emissions Directive agreed limits, all but one of them well below 50%. Read the LBEP Emissions Factsheet for more information.

‘This increase [traffic] will cause mayhem on an already busy road’ - Traffic associated with the plant will account for an increase of just 2% on the B653. Emsrayne are working with Central Bedfordshire Council’s Highways team to incorporate road improvements and traffic management measures into the plans. Download the LBEP Traffic Factsheet.

‘a notorious accident hotspot.’ - Accident data supplied by the Central Bedfordshire Council Highways Department shows only 36 reported accidents between 2012 and 2017 on these roads. Of these, less than half occurred on the Lower Luton Road and 31 were designated “slight severity”

‘unbearable disruption during construction of the plant and road works’ - As part of the planning application, Central Bedfordshire Highways Department will consider any necessary repairs or upgrades to the road network. If planning permission is granted, this will form part of an S106 agreement and these works will be paid for by the project. This could result in better roads for local users, at no cost to taxpayers. Construction will be limited by CBC planners to sociable hours and days e.g. no Sunday or bank Holiday working.

‘The road is prone to flooding’ - A Flood Risk Assessment will support the planning application and a sustainable drainage scheme is being developed to manage the volume and quality of the surface water run-off from the site. The drainage scheme will ensure that water quality and the hydrological and hydrogeological regimes remain unaffected and, where possible are improved. Underlying ground conditions appear to be sufficiently permeable to allow surface water runoff to percolate through the soil beneath the site. Download the LBEP Drainage Factsheet.

‘Imagine what happens when there is an accident on the B653’ - Improvements to the road networks will contribute to safer roads, with wider carriageways, lower speed limits and maintained greenery on verges to ensure higher visibility.

‘Lorries who can’t get through will find other routes, clogging up roads everywhere.’ - Any planning permission will be subject to a routing agreement, setting out HGV routes for entering and leaving the site. This will be enforced by Central Bedfordshire Council. LBEP will have capacity to store RDF for up to 5 days so deliveries can be suspended if the agreed route is blocked.

‘Generating energy from waste products isn’t renewable/green energy.’ - In fact, it is. Energy derived from the biogenic (i.e. non fossil carbon) is typically seen as renewable, while energy derived from fossil carbon is not. The energy produced from the biogenic content of RDF is considered to be renewable, and therefore green, energy. DEFRA have published more information in this Energy from Waste guide.

‘Incineration discourages recycling.’ - Aside from the fact that this isn't an incinerator, there is no evidence to suggest that incinerators discourage recycling, in fact, countries with far more incinerators than the UK also demonstrate higher recycling rates. LBEP will be restricted to residual waste RDF; waste remaining after recyclable waste has been removed. This waste is currently disposed of at landfill or at incinerators in the UK or abroad.

‘Incineration destroys valuable resources’ - Again, aside from the fact that this isn't an incinerator, this method of generating power is a form of energy recovery – using the calorific value of material to generate energy in the form of heat and power, from materials which would otherwise end up in landfill which offers no energy potential at all, or being shipped overseas. This way, the energy potential of the material stays in the energy cycle, enabling it to be used again in a different form.