01403 878 026
01903 892 899

Britaniacrest Recycling Incinerator Plan

Britaniacrest Recycling at Warnham

Published on 1st March 2019

In June 2018, plans for a new incinerator in Horsham were rejected by West Sussex County Council. There was delight for those who had campaigned against it. There were 1,200 objections to the application, whilst a petition opposing the incinerator was signed by no less than 5,000 people. 

Now, Britaniacrest Recycling is attempting to overturn the council’s decision. It has amended its proposal and revised designs for the plant will now be considered by a government-appointed Planning Inspector. 

The No Incinerator 4 Horsham (NI4H) campaign and West Sussex County Council (WSCC) continue to object, whilst a new petition against the appeal is gaining momentum. But Britaniacrest Recycling (BR) claims that many of the fears surrounding the proposed facility and some reasons for objection are unfounded. AAH met representatives on both sides…

What does Britaniacrest Recycling want to build?

A Recycling, Recovery and Renewable Energy facility. This would take in commercial/industrial waste, as well as municipal waste, which is our household rubbish. Some materials (wood, metals, plastics, for example) would be segregated during a sorting process. The residual waste - whatever cannot be re-used, recycled or composted -  would be burnt in an incinerator. This is turn creates energy. The process is called Energy from Waste (EFW).

How does the incineration part work?

Residual waste is fed into a combustion chamber and burnt at a temperature of 850 degrees Celsius. This creates steam, which in turn drives an electrical generator to produce electricity for the National Grid. Another positive is that incineration prevents burying waste at landfill sites. David Spencer, representing Britaniacrest, says: “The process makes us more self-sufficient in energy terms. If built, this site would produce about 21 megawatts of electricity. That’s difficult to quantify, but  the plant would generate power for about 45,000 homes.”

 Sounds great!

Well, there are two sides to every story. This story has many different chapters and most of them have sub-plots! For example, there are doubts as to how much electricity EFW plants produce. Peter Catchpole, West Sussex County Councillor for the Holbrook division, says: “Nothing is stipulated to ensure the company fulfil that level of energy production. Certainly, technical people who have looked at the planning application don't feel the facility will do what Britaniacrest is claiming, in terms of the amount of energy put into the National Grid.”

 Is that the biggest issue?

Far from it. There are many reasons why people oppose this plan. Some think the location is wrong, others feel it will have a detrimental effect on health for residents. Another view is that incineration is a dated solution to waste management and detracts from more sustainable recycling options. WSCC rejected the first application on six counts. However, in its objection to the Planning Inspector, it will only object to one: the “unacceptable impact on the landscape and visual amenity of the area”.

Why only one objection?

Depends who you ask. Chris Foss, Director at BR, says: “The last application was recommended for approval by planning officers but was knocked back by councillors on six points. Five of those are not being defended now because they are difficult to defend. One reason was based on vehicle movements, even though we never asked for any more movements than we already have permission for.” However, an NI4H spokesperson has another view: “When we held a public meeting at The Holbrook Club, Cllr Jonathan Essex talked about local authority planning in context of austerity. WSCC has just set its budget and difficult choices had to be made. The council can't pay for everything. So, if it can only object on one point, at least it is a jolly good one. As a group, NI4H will highlight other valid reasons for objection.”

Let’s discuss the location first...

The facility is planned for the former Wealden Brickworks site off Langhurstwood Road. If you’re travelling east on the A264 between the Dorking Road and Rusper Road roundabouts, it’s the first road on the left. It is not a greenfield site. The area is surrounded by a Mechanical/Biological Waste Treatment plant (operated by Biffa), the landfill site at Brookhurst Wood, and Wienerberger Ltd brickworks.

That doesn’t sound like a bad spot...

Campaigners feel differently. The site is close to Warnham Station, which is on the Sutton and Mole Valley lines between Horsham and London. A NI4H spokesperson said: “West Sussex has a tourism strategy and wants to attract visitors. There is a big tourism push to coincide with Horsham’s Year of Culture. For anyone arriving by train, the first thing they’re going to see of the town is a massive incinerator. That can’t be the impression we want to make.”  

What about the facility itself?

The plan is for a 37m high building, with the ‘chimney’ stack standing 95m high. Campaigners claim that even the main structure will be visible from a wide area, although the design has been altered since the original application. David Spencer says: “The size is dictated by the machinery that will go inside. However, we’ve collaborated with technology providers and have reduced the height by 7m compared with the original design. We will also dig down two metres for the base, so most of the plant will sit under the tree canopy. In addition, architects have come up with a curved design to make it more attractive.”

How much will it cost?

About £180million. If given the green light, the plant would take three years to build, providing about 300 construction jobs. The operational facility would create 35 posts. Britaniacrest also claims it would be good for the environment. Director Chris Foss said: “We are a recycling company, making money by extracting recyclable materials. A major factor that has been overlooked is that the plant will include recycling facilities. Much like our Hookwood site, machinery and manual pickers will sort and segregate timber, plastics, metals and aggregate, with only residual waste being burnt. Even thebottom ash is re-used by the construction industry.” 

Is burning a long-term solution?

Campaigners say incinerators have no place in a modern waste strategy. A NI4H spokesperson said: “People are trying to support the government’s new Waste and Resource Strategy, building on the positive impact of Blue Planet. There’s pressure on manufacturers to cut packaging and new measures encourage us all to increase recycling. Individuals, businesses and local authorities are taking steps to raise recycling rates to 60%. Research from UKWIN (United Kingdom Without Incineration Network) suggests that the climate change impact from incineration is worse than landfill sites. Most of what is incinerated could be recycled.” 

Are incinerators really worse than landfill?

In the government’s waste hierarchy guide, a five-tiered pyramid lists ‘prevention’ as the best solution, followed by ‘re-use of materials’ and then ‘recycling’. Nearer the bottom is ‘energy recovery’, with ‘disposal’ (meaning landfill or incineration without energy recovery) at the bottom. David Spencer said: “Landfill is the least sustainable solution as you’re putting valuable resources in the ground and not getting any energy back from it. That's why the government and others overseas are phasing out landfill.” 

So, ‘energy recovery’ is the fourth best option in a five-tiered pyramid?

Yes. And some objectors believe we should be aiming higher than that!

Look at other options?

Perhaps. A NI4H spokesperson said: “The world is moving quickly and people are changing their recycling habits. The future is not burying or burning things; the future is green. Some countries have community recycling hubs, where families can enjoy the experience. We too should consider ways to make it easier to recycle and dispose of waste. Energy from waste plants might have been a good idea 20 years or even five years ago. But it isn’t the right idea anymore.” 

What does Britaniacrest think?

It claims that EFW plants can help increase recycling rates, pointing to the example set by Scandinavian nations. In Copenhagen, one remarkable municipal incineration plant incorporates a ski slope on its roof. David Spencer said: “The UK is behind many European countries that have far higher levels of recycling, where they rely less on landfill and more on incineration.”  

Are incinerators bad for your health?

All incineration permits are issued by the Environment Agency, with restrictions on what can and can’t be burnt. David Spencer says: “There's a lot of misinformation about emissions. The Health Protection Agency carried out a long-term study on the effects of emissions on the local environment from incinerators. The study found that any risk to human health and the environment is minimal or insignificant.” * 

Minimal risk is still some risk…

A point made by campaigners. NI4H says: “One recent report highlighted that people are healthy and engaged in leisure activities here in the Horsham District. That shouldn’t be a reason for us to become less healthy with noxious fumes from an incinerator and diesel emissions from heavy goods vehicles, particularly when they’re idling at traffic lights. This problem will increase when the new North Horsham estateis built.”

What new estate?

Horsham District Council has granted permission for a housing estate on greenfield land with 2,750 homes along with schools, amenities and associated infrastructure. According to NI4H, this is another good reason to object to the plant: “There will be a new road built through the middle of this estate and the current plan is for HGVs heading for Langhurstwood Road to use it.” 

Will there be even more HGVs than we already see along that road?

That’s debatable. Chris Foss says: “Currently, the site has planning permission to receive 230,000 tonnes of material by road, and the same going out. If we’re successful with this bid, the plant could potentially cut 180,000 tonnes of movement per annum. With each vehicle carrying about 25 tonnes, that equates to a lot less vehicles on the road and consequently less emissions.” However, NI4H claims that the number of current HGV movements is well below the permitted capacity. So, in real terms, there wouldn’t be a reduction. 

So Britaniacrest is already using the site in question?

Yes. Chris Foss said: “We mainly deal with construction and demolition waste. Only about a third of the waste that the UK produces is household waste, with the rest being industrial. So, it’s a huge problem. In a joint venture with Seneca, we also have a contract with West Sussex County Council to take the residual waste from the Mechanical/Biological Treatment (MBT) plant next door.” 

You’ve lost me…

All the ‘black bin liner’ waste that we put in our green lid bins goes to the MBT plant where cans, plastic bottles, yoghurt pots, food waste and anything else that can be recycled is picked out. The rest goes to Britaniacrest Recycling. Some of that waste is sent to landfill. It used to be dumped in the landfill site on the other side of the fence, but that is now full. It is being covered with ground materials and lining, to restrict its emissions, and will be landscaped. In a few years’ time, we could be looking at a wild meadow. Instead, some waste goes to landfill in Redhill, whilst some is used as RDF. 


Refuse Derived Fuel. Basically, it is exported overseas and used to create energy from waste in the same way that Britaniacrest Recycling would like to do at its own facility. Chris Foss said: “The UK imports goods from Europe, everything from flowers to electronic goods. To make travel economical, the lorries return with exports, some of which is waste. Of course, that’s an awful lot of mileage and has an impact on our carbon footprint.”

Why isn’t it sent to UK incinerators?

Because there aren’t enough of them, according to Britaniacrest. David Spencer said: “Some countries recognised the problem many years ago and built EFW plants to move away from landfill. The UK caught on late and although we are building plants, we’re not doing so at the rate required, as our planning system is complicated. Those that are permitted operate at capacity very quickly. We still have a problem involving millions of tonnes of waste that we’ll need to deal with in the future.” 

Are there any incinerators in West Sussex?

There are three plants in Hampshire and one in Newhaven, but not in West Sussex. Plans for an Energy from Waste plant at Ford, near Arundel, have proved equally unpopular. Cllr Peter Catchpole says it is time to stop dealing with applications on an ad-hoc basis and develop a national strategy. “We look at the national picture for electricity, water and infrastructure; so why not waste? Incinerators are very expensive and always contentious. Their placement should be subject to national consideration, as there are places that have an industrial context and are not rural or within an area of natural beauty. It should not be beyond the wit of man for that to happen.”

He’s right, isn’t he? 

Britaniacrest point out that surrounding counties have Energy from Waste plants, yet West Sussex has none. If it should have one, an industrial site that already deals with residual waste and is next to an MBT plant would seem as good as anywhere. Chris Foss said: “We don’t need to justify this, as the need for an EFW plant is highlighted in the West Sussex Waste Plan. We are a local company and most of the material currently coming into the site is from the local area. Talk of us dealing with all of London's rubbish if the plant is built is nonsense.” 

What do objectors say to that?

Peter Catchpole said: “There is a bone of contention about whether there is already sufficient incineration capacity, as the amount of waste coming through them is not going up. As we increase recycling efforts, residual waste will go down, then level out. If we keep building incinerators, we’ll end up with overcapacity. But those who invested in these £150m projects will need them to keep burning all day and night for 35 years, seeking waste from a wider area to get a return.” 

How will it end?

The NI4H group is working with the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) and UK Without Incineration Network (UKWIN) as well as Green councillors and technical advisors as it builds a case. Objections must be in by 4 March, with the Planning Inspector to rule on the appeal late this year. The group is also fundraising to finance technical reports and barristers to launch a credible opposition. NI4H said: “Everybody's representations from the previous application are still valid but new submissions can be made. We’re finding that people are even more determined to see off this threat.”

And the developer?

Chris Foss said: “We’ve worked tirelessly on this application, but we know not to count our chickens. This is a hugely ambitious project for us, being our first Energy from Waste facility. It’s a £180m project and if there wasn't a genuine need for it, I wouldn't be burdening our family business with that kind of debt.”  


PICTURES: TOBY PHILLIPS(Protest images courtesy of NI4H)

For more details, visit www.britaniacrestrecycling.co.uk/wealden-works-dp

No Incinerator 4 Horsham website: https://ni4h.org

* The study, funded by Public Health England and published on 22 November, was carried out by researchers at the Small Area Health Statistics Unit and King’s College, London. The work is believed to be the largest of its kind to date and is based on incinerators over the period 2003-2010.