At the Full Whitchurch Town Council meeting on 2nd December, Councillors voted unanimously to submit an official objection to the proposals for a massive Incinerator less just 3.5 miles from the town’s Square.
The American giant Wheelabrator plans to build a plant that is said to be as big as two Winchester Cathedrals and cause damage to health, pollution of land and rivers, harm wildlife and result in 400 heavy lorry journeys per day. Campaigners from the Keep Test Valley Beautiful group say the prevailing wind will spread emissions over the Whitchurch and Overton areas and also over Andover, St Mary Bourne, Chilbolton, Winchester and all places between.
Whitchurch Town Council has produced a detailed objection that highlights the adverse effects stating that:
There can be few places in the UK that would be so destroyed by such an environmentally damaging industrial complex than the beautiful tranquil countryside of the Test Valley and mid-Hampshire. This proposal will have an unacceptable effect on the health, well-being and economy of the residents and businesses.
Number of objections mount
Whitchurch joins others in objecting to the scheme. Test Valley Borough Council have a proposal to object being tabled this week, while Basingstoke Council leader Ken Rhatigan has already stated his objection. Whitchurch’s Hampshire County Councillor Tom Thacker confirmed at the meeting he will be sending in an objection as did the Silk Mill.
Local residents urged to send in comments
The full text of Whitchurch Town Council’s objection is reproduced below. Local residents are urged to send in their comments and can use the Town Council objection for ideas. Objections need only be brief if wished.
There are three ways to comment:
1. Visit https://fs21.formsite.com/EdT0nj/4nhhoi4jxu/index.html
2. email comments and questions to Wheelabrator:
and please also copy to
3. write to: Freepost Wheelabrator HAREWOOD
Please send a copy to: KTVB, Middleton Estate, Longparish, SP11 6PL
DEADLINE is 5.00pm Thursday 12th DECEMBER.
AFTER THAT IT’S TOO LATE.
THE TOWN COUNCIL’S OBJECTION
A pdf to download is here:
Whitchurch is a small country town and parish situated on the River Test whose town square is just 5.6km north west from the proposed incinerator while its parish boundary is just 4.4km away. It is a compact town of 4870 population (2011 census) with shops, several pubs, four churches, businesses, an expanding Primary School, a Secondary Community School serving a wide area, and several child nurseries. It is a growing town with new housing recently added and has a railway station and bus services to surrounding areas.
Whitchurch Town Council was one of the first places in Hampshire to declare a Climate Emergency.
The proposal raises a large number of serious concerns.
When the first proposals were announced, Wheelabrator refused to hold a meeting for residents in Whitchurch, despite its size and it being the closest population centre. Residents had to wait until late November for Wheelabrator to exhibit their plans and make themselves available to ask questions.
A single evening meeting was held at the Testbourne School on a weekday and at a time when many were still on their way home from work and could not attend.
Following this meeting there have been a number of local concerns expressed that information was both scant and conflicting, with different answers being provided to the same questions. It is therefore the view that the consultations were less than satisfactory and cannot be representative.
TRAFFIC AND ACCESS
The roads and traffic levels in Whitchurch are already at breaking point. New housing and school expansion has added to this and the town regularly suffers from HGVs and others breaking up pavements and adding danger to pedestrians, cyclists and other road users. Congestion and danger is particularly high when there are incidents on the A34 which leads to diversions through the town.
The massive number of HGV movements that are expected for this Incinerator will only add to the already unacceptable traffic levels in the area. The proposals give no information on how these movements will affect surrounding communities when incidents occur on the A34 or A303, nor how the effects of the emissions from these vehicles will be addressed.
SOURCE OF WASTE
The proposals are unclear as to where waste will be coming from and it is notable that there are channel ports within the driving distances quoted. Hampshire already has incineration capacity and this proposal does nothing to reduce the amount of waste created, and may act as a disincentive to do so.
Hampshire already has three Incineration sites that already deal with its waste requirements. Importing waste from surrounding counties and other areas to ensure Wheelabrator remains a viable operator is unnecessary and inappropriate given the traffic and environmental considerations.
It is noted that channel ports such as Southampton are within the distances quoted by Wheelabrator who have not discounted importing waste from overseas to ensure financial viability of their proposals.
Whilst this is proposed to be a Waste to Energy plant, the application shows no clear link into the National Grid, relying on separate subsequent approval. The suggested routes adjacent to or through the delicate countryside of Harewood Forest are both unacceptable. That no detailed information on this and whether the plans would be either underground or overground through pylons detrimental to the environment and landscape seems bizarre.
A major question remains as asked at the Consultation evening – would the plant simply be a waste disposal operation if such a link were refused? The answer was “Unlikely” thus no denial that that such a scenario could result.
The major product of incinerators is heat that can be used for various uses, including the heating of homes. Using such heat for sustainable use should be an essential part of every such complex. At the consultation no answer was available on this, although perversely it was thought it could be used on site for use by Raymond Brown in its allied processing of ash.
EFFECT ON THE RIVER TEST
Water levels in the River Test are already at their lowest and more water is planned to be taken as a result. Any further strain put on this unique chalk river could be devastating. To site this within a Water Protection Zone with the risks of contamination and loss of natural habitats is unacceptable and indicates little investigation has taken place. As an example at the consultation evening it was clear that Wheelabrator had not consulted with the Watercress and Winterbourne project, a Heritage Fund scheme that supports the unique ecology of the many chalk streams that feed the River Test.
The W & W project states that:
“With only around 200 [chalk streams] existing worldwide, and most of those in England, chalk streams provide an ecologically rare home for a whole host of wonderful wildlife. Here in Hampshire their cool, oxygenated, alkaline waters provide a uniquely perfect habitat for species like water voles, brown trout, southern damselflies, water crowfoot, and endangered white-clawed crayfish.”
What effect will both seepage, discharge and emissions from the Incinerator have on these streams and rivers as the particulates fall to the ground or are transferred by rain into the surrounding lands?
The proposals do not show how smaller particulates will be managed. It is understood the particulate size is not measured below PM 10.0 and mitigation against the effects of the much smaller particles has not been provided. How that is addressed has not been made clear.
Studies are available showing that ultrafine particles “play a major role in adverse impacts on human health”.
These particles are not considered within the application yet Whitchurch and many miles around is directly under the prevailing winds from the proposed site. The worry of local people, including the already perceived concerns over these emissions are likely to have an adverse effect on both physical and mental well-being, placing increased demands on an already stretched health service and the struggling local health provision. With an increasing elderly population as well as a growing population including the location of the main schools in the area, these issues will be exacerbated.
ECONOMY (incl TOURISM, FARMING) and ENVIRONMENT
The area is one of natural beauty and includes a number of important heritage and tourism sites all of which would be damaged by the blight that would occur. Whitchurch has the historic Silk Mill recently renovated with a National Heritage Lottery Grant and which attracts visitors from far and wide. Its setting on the Test and with beautiful surrounding landscape adds to its unique attraction for visitors who both enjoy the working mill and add to the local economy, while just two miles further up the river is the renowned Bombay Sapphire Distillery. The proposal will seriously diminish the attraction of visitors, impacting the economic vitality of the area and related businesses of B&Bs, hotels and leisure facilities and on the rural tourism of the national asset of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The valley of the River Test attracts many walkers, cyclists and horse riders and the area includes part of the National Cycle Network. With quiet lanes, wooded and open areas teeming with wildlife and peppered with pretty villages the size of the Incinerator will blight one of the soul’s most beautiful areas of English countryside. The increase in heavy traffic and resultant dangers will result in a reduction in these healthy activities.
The area is rich in farming and in particular for high quality local produce. These rely on the need to maintain the quality that provides their unique attraction. Examples are the organic farms and livestock farms of Laverstoke Park, Harroway, Bere Mill, Leckford, along with Northdown Orchard and the world leading Wooldings Vineyard. Fishing is a major leisure and business use of the River Test with many pubs, hotels and other enterprises surviving as viable businesses on its special qualities.
Wheelabrator has not provided information on how the proposal will affect such specialist producers or the trade that will be lost through customers’ perception of produce being grown or reared under the cloud of a polluted airstream and its accompanying rainfall.
Wheelabrator state themselves that the Incinerator on its elevated site will be visible from up to 15km away which includes not just much of the environmentally delicate valleys of the Test, Bourne, Dever and Anton rivers but will also be seen from much of the North Wessex Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with its own boundary just 3.7km away.
As well as this visual impact on the rural landscape it will be a source of light pollution affecting habitats, housing and the whole unspoilt experience of the countryside.
Should this proposal be built, it could lead to further development on adjacent land resulting in Further loss of open space and countryside.
This location is wholly the wrong place for a construction such an industrial scale. There can be few places in the UK that would be so destroyed by such an environmentally damaging industrial complex than the beautiful tranquil countryside of the Test Valley and mid-Hampshire. This proposal will have an unacceptable effect on the health, well-being and economy of the residents and businesses.
Whitchurch Town Council wishes its views to be considered by the Planning Inspectorate and objects to this application. It requests that as the largest rural settlement in the area it is registered as a Consultee should a Planning Application be submitted.