Fate of the controversial Covanta incinerator plans in Stewartby to be decided by High Court

Protest held at Rookery Pit, Stewartby
Protest held at Rookery Pit, Stewartby

The fate of plans for an energy-from-waste incinerator in Mid-Beds could be decided by a two-day court case taking place today.

The controversial Covanta scheme was expected to be built in Stewartby, following a decade-long saga.

But campaigners managed to have the case referred to the High Court, after judges agreed there were grounds for challenging the Environment Agency’s decision to give the scheme the go-ahead.

Speaking to the T&C earlier this year, Nicola Ryan-Raine, chairman of campaign group Bedfordshire Against Covanta Incinerator (BACI), said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to put evidence before the courts – and challenge the actions of the Environment Agency and the intentions of Covanta.

“The judge questioned whether the Environment Agency (and indeed Covanta’s) statements had sufficiently satisfied the statement that ‘the outcome would not have been substantially different’ if our observations had been addressed.”

Covanta is a private firm hoping to build a facility capable of converting about 585,000 tonnes of household and business waste into 65MWe of electricity every year.

The chosen site is a used clay pit near Stewartby, close to the Millennium Country Park.

However, although Covanta would build, pay for and run the facility,the legal fight will be against the Environment Agency, with Covanta as an interested party.

Even if the Environment Agency loses today’s hearing Covanta would still have planning permission and the application to operate the plant could be re-submitted.

Tom Koltis, Covanta’s executive director of European development said: “Whilst the judicial review is on-going it would not be appropriate for any party involved to provide comment until the hearing has concluded and the court has announced its final decision.”

>Covanta bosses say that the scheme will generate around 60,000 megawatts of energy each year.

Upwards of 40 jobs will be created at the site in the long-term, although in the short-term there will closer to 1,000 posts in building and setting up the plant.

However opponents have expressed concerns about air pollution, the affect on the landscape, and the volume of traffic going to the site.