Hatfield incinerator row heats up at scrutiny meeting

PROPONENTS of the hated Hatfield incinerator came under fire from environment and finance experts during a heated meeting on the controversial New Barnfield proposals.

Representatives from Hatfield Against Incineration (HAI) and the Welwyn Hatfield Environmental Network (WHEN) poured scorn over attempts by Hatfield County Council and Veolia Environmental Services to justify the �220m scheme, during a special meeting of Welwyn Hatfield Council’s environment overview and scrutiny committee at Campus West on Monday.

Borough and Hatfield town councillors joined residents in the public gallery to hear presentations from Richard Brown, Hertfordshire County Council’s assistant director of environment and commercial services, Veolia’s senior project manager Andrew Milsted, HAI committee member Paul Zukowskyj and WHEN’s Jonathan Fisher.

But although the meeting had been called by committee chairman Helen Bromley to improve understanding of the complex issues surrounding the saga, the three-and-a-half hour session arguably raised more questions than it gave answers.

Mr Brown began by explaining why the county council decided incineration was the best solution for the county’s waste – and how New Barnfield was chosen.

“We were, from the outset, open minded about the site and the technology that might come forward,” he said. “All we wanted to make sure of was that it was affordable, value for money and environmentally sound.”

Veolia’s Mr Milsted said the plant, once completed by April 2016, would deal with up to 380,000 tonnes of waste a year, and guaranteed 28,000 tonnes would be recycled on site.

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He said an “acoustic shield” would be built around Southfield School to protect special needs children from the noise created by the additional 180 vehicles per day heading to the site.

But he drew mocking laughter from the partisan crowd when he suggested the incinerator might actually be “a change for the better”.

In his presentation, Mr Zukowskyj outlined HAI’s alternative solution to incineration – pursuing a recycling rate above 70 per cent, and disposing of residual waste through mechanical biological treatment, which produces more recyclable material than incineration.

“I’ve got a lot of experience of climate change issues, and building something that emits CO2 for 25 years is not better for the land, full stop,” he said.

And WHEN’s Mr Fisher, an environmental economist of 35 years experience, blasted the council’s financial justifications for pursuing an incinerator at New Barnfield.

“I frankly was appalled at the poor economic appraisal and lack of supporting evidence,” he said.

“Nothing I have seen since has given me any more confidence that the county council has altered matters.”