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Council approves £100k fighting fund to stop the Incinerator

November 5, 2021 6:15 PM
In Wiltshire Times

Councillors in Westbury unanimously agreed on Monday to approve a 'fighting fund' of up to £100,000 to stop a controversial energy from waste incinerator being built in the town.

The council had already approved £10,000 for legal fees to pay for a solicitor, barrister and expert witness to represent the town's case.

It was being recommended to approve a further £20,00 and to set aside a sum of up to £70,000 from a rolling capital fund/general reserves to employ a legal team.

Cllr Mike Kettlety, chairman of the council's Northacre Renewable Energy Task & Finish Group, said more than 2,300 people had objected to Northacre Renewable Energy Ltd's £200 million scheme.

He told a full council meeting on Monday evening: "The whole town is expecting Westbury Town Council to support them.

"The money is there in general reserves and in the rolling capital fund. I think it is a no brainer.

"It is, of course, dependant on the scheme being called in. If it is not called in, there will be no expenditure."

Cllr Kettlety said that after hearing Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking at the COP26 conference in Glasgow on Monday money spent in Westbury to help save the planet would be money well spent.

The council approved the group's recommendation they appoint a preferred solicitor to represent the town council should Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, call in the NREL waste incinerator planning application.

Mr Gove and his predecessor Robert Jenrick were urged by towns and parishes, plus local South West Wiltshire MP, Dr Andrew Murrison, several months ago to call in the scheme.

In June, Wiltshire Council's strategic planning committee voted 7-4 to approve Northacre Renewable Energy Ltd's plans to change the technology for the proposed incinerator from advanced thermal treatment to moving grate combustion.

It is claimed the incinerator will create around 40 jobs and process more than 243,000 tonnes of waste a year.

The Environment Agency has yet to decide whether to grant NREL's application for an operating licence following extensive public consultation earlier this year.

Westbury Town Council was also asked to approve the use of a crowd funding appeal to raise donations towards legal fees. It says that any income offered by neighbouring parishes and towns will be used to offset costs.

Cllr Ward Jones, Westbury's deputy mayor, asked if any of the 18 town and parish councils that had also objected to the waste incinerator had offered to contribute towards their legal costs.

"Have any of them actually put their money where their mouth was?" he said.

Councillors heard that Westbury Town Council has been contacted by four councils, of which one has offered to contribute £100 towards their legal fees.

Westbury town council clerk Deborah Urch said: "Other councils are waiting until we can confirm the type of costs that we might have.

"We have said this is worst case scenario and they want to know what the scope of the project is, so that they can go back to their council."

Cllr Jones said it was worth finding out whether other councils were going to object, and what their objections were, so that Westbury does not duplicate.