Defra temporarily bans environmental permits for new waste incinerators

Defra has temporarily banned issuing new environmental permits for certain types of waste incinerator plants in England, amid concerns over the country’s waste incineration expansion plans and a potential conflict with eco goals.

The minister of state for food, farming and fisheries, Sir Mark Spencer, issued the moratorium for certain types of waste incineration facilities in England.

The government department said the moratorium lasts until lasts until 24 May but can be withdrawn earlier. It specifically targets environmental permits for facilities focused mainly on energy recovery through waste incineration.

The moratorium covers around 5.2 million tonnes of incineration capacity that has been granted planning permission but has yet to secure an environmental permit to operate.

It also includes a site that environment secretary Steve Barclay is fighting to stop being built in his constituency.

Barclay dubbed the proposed incinerator in his Cambridgeshire seat  a “massive blot on the landscape”.

During the pause period, Defra will investigate the role of waste incineration in the management of residual wastes and scrutinise whether England’s waste incineration capacity aligns with government environmental targets.

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The move has had a mixed response.

Shlomo Dowen, national coordinator of the UK Without Incineration Network (UKWIN), said “We are witnessing the start of what we hope will be a comprehensive moratorium on new waste incineration capacity in England. This follows similar moves in Wales and Scotland.”

“We hope this move, together with other measures, will support England to improve upon last year’s 43% recycling rate. UKWIN hopes the Scottish Environment Minister will now also direct the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency from issuing new permits for any incinerators that have yet to be built.”

Jacob Hayler, executive director, Environmental Services Association (ESA), said: “The instruction by Defra to pause the determination of environmental permits for vital, high-performing, infrastructure is both out-of-the-blue and raises procedural questions that are likely to impact business confidence in the UK.

“In practice, a two-month pause is unlikely to have a significant impact on projects in the context of, what is typically, a lengthy permit determination process – but our industry and investors will undoubtedly be keen to understand the motivations as well as the scope and outcomes of the Defra study that has prompted this pause.”

At the start of the year, Defra and the Environment Agency commissioned a free nature market toolkit to support the UK’s farming community.

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