Tuesday, 24 March 2009


When a decision is made that seems so utterly mind-numbingly wrong, it’s always good to ask – as dispassionately as possible – why it was made. After all, if it was that wrong, why couldn’t everyone have seen it?

I find myself in this position over the fact that the incinerator in Newhaven that will soon burn much of the county’s rubbish has finally got the go-ahead. This is a quite appalling decision, which is no better for the fact that we have had several months to steel ourselves for it.

Although Newhaven is not in Wealden, Wealden is most assuredly affected by the incinerator. This is both in environmental terms (lorries thundering through carrying hazardous waste, airborne pollutants being blown north, etc) and through the cost that will affect every council tax payer in East Sussex (the latest estimate for the incinerator is £145 million – more than double the original figure).

The list of reasons against it runs to much more than I can write here. There is a better and more environmental option proposed and costed by the Liberal Democrats for dealing with the county’s waste, the county council’s contract with its waste management company seems likely to limit the incentives for recycling just when we need them most, the incinerator will be run on mains water despite being by the Ouse estuary, the waste will be brought in – and hazardous ‘bottom ash’ shipped out – by lorry, despite a railway line being right there ... the list is endless.

So why is it happening? The answer appears to be an old-fashioned belief among the county council officials who devised the incinerator scheme in the mid-1990s that a single waste contract with a high level of incineration offered a better way of getting rid of waste than a series of smaller-scale solutions. Add to that a handful of lead county councillors who never grew up with the environmental threat and thus saw waste disposal purely as ‘the right mechanics for the right price’ and it’s easy to see why incineration seemed attractive. If you then put several years’ work into a project and fear it coming to nothing just as we’re threatened with punitive fines for missing landfill reduction targets, it is understandable you should want to salvage it.

That’s why I don’t condemn the Conservatives who run County Hall for incompetence. But they can be legitimately attacked on two fronts:

Firstly, they were anti-democratic over the whole planning and consultation process by riding roughshod over 16,000 legitimate objections (yes, 16,000!). Secondly, they have been gutless in the face of changing realities that should have told them to seek other options for waste disposal – even the Tory-controlled West Sussex County Council has now abandoned incineration, so it’s hardly an issue of political ideology.

We need a shake-up at County Hall! And that shake-up can happen on 4 June when elections to the county council take place. Even those in the Conservative heartlands of north Wealden and much of Rother should be as alarmed about the incinerator as the poor souls of Newhaven, albeit for different reasons. We all need to send a warning shot across the bows of the county Tories that we need to face down the environmental threat, not add to it.


  1. Chris, you are jumping on any bandwagon you can. Now you are having a go about incineration and as usual make illjudged and illinformed comments about a process of which you have no knowledge at all for the following reasons:
    1. There will be no hazardous waste taken to the incinerator as this would contravene their licence from the Environment Agency;
    2. Fly ash is safely used within the construction industry and this process has been undertaken for years;
    3. Emmissions are laid down, governed and monitored by the EA and safe levels cannot be exceeded;
    4. The catylists and scrubbers take out all major pollutants to meet strict EU and EA criteria;
    5. The incinerator in Lewisham, which is similar to the one in Newhaven, built in a relatively residential area has been running since 1989. Tests and health surveys have been regularly carried out and it has been scientifically proven that the incinerator has NO adverse effects on health;
    6. West Sussex County Council approved the incinerator at Lancing and that is being commissioned at the present time;
    7. There is a propsed incinerator at the Hailsham Roadway site in Hailsham, as a screening opinion has been sought from Wealden District Council;
    8. Incineration is widespread in Europe and this country is backward in its thinking, much of which is nimbyism of the first degree;
    9. The way forward is gasification plants rather than incineration and this new technology as that is totally non pollutant;
    10. Landfill leaves a long term legacy and leachate has to be pumped out of the sites for decades. One tip I am aware of that closed in 1976, still has 1.3 million gallons of leachate pumped from it annually which has to be taken away and disposed of;
    11. Many wastes cannot be recycled. There are 157 different types of plastic and some cannot be recycled. There are two options on these wastes and that is landfill or incineration;
    12. We have a desperate power shortage in this country where we face blackouts within 4 years unless we take action now;
    13. The incinerator went through the planning process including an appeal where all representations were made on both sides. The fact remains that no one came up with scientific evidence to prove that the proposal was harmful to health in any form whatsoever. It is the conception of an incinerator and the misinformation that is given where the real problem lies.

    In conclusion, you are misinformed and are yourself guilty of making politics over the Newhaven incinerator as you feel your view is popular and could gain you votes. The right decisions are always the hardest to make and the wrong decisions are always the easiest. In the case of the incineration policy and decisions made, coupled with the lack of scientific proof of any harm to health, the Councillors at ESCC, on balance, made the correct decision irrespective of political persuasion.

    I would suggest you go away and research the subject first, speak to the EA and scientists in this field before making an utter fool of yourself on a public website.

  2. Fact - It was the Liberal Democrats under the leadership of David Rogers that put the incinerator at Newhaven into the Waste Local Plan when they controlled the County Council. I fail to see how you can blame the Tories when it originated from your own Party.

  3. It is typical of the Liberal Democrats to jump on any bandwaggon there is in order to gain votes and your misinformed and innacurate blog is just another example. They are vultures that wait in the wings and will say or do anything to get votes. In fact the wind doesn't change direction as much as the Party does. Big Ben has four faces and they have got 5.

  4. There is going to be a planning application submitted for an Incinerator at Hailsham Roadways on the A22. They have already got a screening opinion and that can be found on Wealden's website. I hope you are going to stop it Chris.

    Concerned resident