Industrial and Commercial Waste Incineration

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:08 pm on 28th January 2020.

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Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns Conservative, Vale of Glamorgan 5:08 pm, 28th January 2020

It is a privilege to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hosie, and I congratulate Stephen Doughty on securing this important debate.

There are of course policy differences between in England and Wales. In essence, the backstop for this issue and the challenges faced by all our communities, certainly in Wales, is planning policy. My request of the Welsh Government and the regulators is therefore for consistency, not only in the policy itself, and in its interpretation and consideration, but from politicians as well.

It is easy for politicians to stand up in a public meeting, wherever that might be in our constituencies, having played a part from the outset in setting the policy in place that has led to the position we are in now. I am pleased to say that my position on incineration has been consistent from the time I was a Member of the National Assembly for Wales, when I represented South Wales West, which includes the Swansea East constituency. Carolyn Harris will remember the Crymlyn Burrows incinerator that later burnt down. That sparked my original interest, which led me to oppose the Welsh Government’s policy, which is instinctively in favour of incineration.

The original debate in the Assembly, post the 2001 application in Swansea, was about trying to set some parameters for the consideration of those applications. It led to the policy, which led to proposed developments not only in Swansea and Cardiff, South and Penarth, but in Llanelli and in my constituency.

The Biomass UK No.2 Ltd plant has been proposed in Barry, but the way it has been treated has been wholly inconsistent. On this occasion, the local authority’s planning committee unanimously rejected it, only for that to be overturned by the Welsh Government’s Planning Inspectorate because it had to follow the policy that the Welsh politicians had put it in place. This is a 10 MW power station that did not have an environmental impact assessment and, significantly, was not considered a development of national significance, which it would have been had it been considered consistently with the policy here in England, which I believe was the intention at the time.

In the very limited time left, I want to underline the risk of planning creep. Originally, the application would have been for clean wood. That policy has changed, yet the Welsh Government are refusing to consider it again as a development of national significance under the changed criteria. My request is that we have consistency. Also, as hon. Members from across the House have pointed out, the policy and recycling rates have changed in a positive way; therefore, the policy that gives rise to these incinerators also needs to change.