Fuming councillor speaks out about resignation over household waste plant decision

An ‘incensed’ councillor has spoken out about why he resigned after a tense parish council meeting about an experimental household waste management research and development site. Edwin Danson had been a long serving and well respected councillor for St Cuthbert Without, Wells, for many years. But when a meeting was held to discuss a planning application for a proposed ‘experimental’ waste facility to be located near Haybridge within the parish, it ended with him quitting.

The meeting was held on July 31 and was attended by 30 members of the public and representatives from the company that submitted the application. Tensions ran high over potential emissions from the site along with concerns that local people were not being told everything – despite the company looking to install a waste facility insisting nearby residents have ‘nothing to worry about’. PyroCore insist the facility would not be an incinerator – despite neighbours fearing it would be – and would instead research a process called ‘pyrolysis’ intended to reduce the problem of plastic pollution and waste.

Members of the public said they felt they were not being listened to and some answers given did not allay their concerns.

Why parish councillor resigned

Mr Danson raised a number of points at the meeting. He said: “I was not opposed to the process, or even the R&D proposal. “What incensed me and led to me resigning was the way one councillor started to say that the Wookey and Haybridge residents were being so difficult about it.

“There were at least 38 objections to the plan. “True, many were objecting more on the process plant rather than on the planning application for permission to put in place a concrete slab in preparation for the research plant to be built. “Until planning permission is given no one should be setting foot on the site.

I feel that is the real issue here.” Mr Danson feels the real concerns of locals are being ignored.

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Meeting supported start of work on ‘experimental’ site

St Cuthbert Without parish council voted, by a majority of one, to support the planning application to lay the slab in preparation for the plant, with the proviso that it is looked at by Somerset County Council’s Regulatory Board. Mr Danson said the parish council’s decision “flew in the face of” public opinion and that of Gary Amos, who, according to his written objection to the proposal, is a chartered engineer, a Fellow of the Institution of Chemical Engineers and someone with 40 years experience in the chemical industry including working with waste incineration and other pyrolysis processes.

Mr Amos wrote that “things needed to be halted to ensure all regulations were followed and enforced if needed.”

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Mr Danson agreed with Mr Amos’s view that a halt to the current planning permission was needed until a full public consultation had been completed. Mr Amos said his report was based on his knowledge and experience of working on similar projects and raised the point that since the initial plans were submitted and granted some years ago, but not followed through, new homes and a school were now planned right next to the site. Somerset County Council will make the final decision on the plans at a later date.

A Somerset County Council spokesman said: “We can confirm the planning application has been submitted to Somerset County Council as the Waste Planning Authority for Somerset and has not yet been determined. “The statutory consultation process is ongoing.” Taylor Wimpey and Persimmon Homes have been granted outline planning permission for a new residential development of up to 220 homes, close to the proposed research site.

Fuming councillor speaks out about resignation over household waste plant decisionThe technology is being developed, with the aim of reducing the need for landfill (stock image)

Councillor ‘sad’ about walking away

Mr Danson added: “It’s sad.

This is the best parish council we’ve ever had, it’s first rate with a brilliant clerk, a conscientious chair and normally has a pragmatic approach. “Something happened that led to a lot of confusion about the process and not the application itself. “It incensed me so much I felt I had no choice but to resign to make the point to the parish council that we have a duty to follow regulations and represent the people and I felt that did not happen at the meeting.”

The minutes of the council’s planning committee lists a number of concerns from the public, including fears that work has already started on the site, despite permission having not yet been granted. Worries also include fears about emission levels being detrimental to public health and safety, and the proximity of the proposed new homes and school. However a previous comment from Bovis states the proposed new school would not open until 2022 – and PyroCore insist it will only carry out research at the experimental waste site for a period of 12 months.

Fuming councillor speaks out about resignation over household waste plant decisionImage of minutes from St Cuthberts Without planning meeting

Mr Danson said: “It is Mendip and Somerset County Council who have the final say on planning matters, parish councils make recommendations and reflect the view of parishioners but do not have the powers to grant permission.

“Until planning permission is granted by Somerset County Council there should be no activity on the site.”

What is pyrolysis?

Pyrolysis is a new idea where household waste will be heated in a process designed to reduce and possibly stop the need for landfill sites. The process occurs in a sealed system, with no emissions and no waste. The PyroCore facility near Wells will be used to test the idea, with a view to tackling the problems of plastic pollution and waste facing the whole country.

Using a small scale research and development plant household waste will be heated, with little or no oxygen, and the various gases, liquids and ash will be separated to be re-used. It does not burn anything like an incinerator, PyroCore say, but changes the chemical composition of the household waste – producing ash for the garden and solids to be used in paving, as well as oils that can be used elsewhere and gas for bio-mass. BELOW: A full statement from PyroCore, the company behind the experimental facility plan.

Full PyroCore statement

The following statement is with regard to the above mentioned planning application and the subsequent Parish Council planning meeting held on Wednesday (31st June), to outline a little more about PyroCore, our exciting technology and clarify our short-term plans for the current site.

Firstly, we would like to thank the committee and residents who attended the Parish meeting wholeheartedly for their valuable time and welcomed the majority vote from the Parish Council to support PyroCore’s environmental endeavours.  PyroCore is an organisation that has the best interests of the environment at its core as we look to change the way waste is perceived and dealt with. The focus of the company is on cleaner and more effective community-based waste to energy and waste to product solution; allowing communities to benefit from the waste that cannot be recycled and would otherwise end up in landfill.

PyroCore is a North Somerset based company and are only renting a small piece of land for a temporary period. Our units are containerised and the building is totally dismantlable. It is a common misconception, but pyrolysis is NOT incineration.

It is a transformative (rather than destructive) process which de-constructs waste in the absence of oxygen breaking it down to release energy and recover by-products for recovery or potential re-use, also making it an ideal solution for the plastics that cannot be mechanically recycled. As a result, we aim to help the goal of Zero to Landfill through our process whilst at the same time greatly reducing the mileage that waste has to travel and means significant carbon savings. We are proud that four of our units are currently being used by the Royal Navy as we also look at contributing towards the maritime environment as well.

We are all very passionate about the environment we live in and strive to be the best in everything we do and to make things better. The Research & Development (R&D) site planned at St Cuthbert’s Mill is a containerised solution and so very compact. These UK designed and built units are intended for deployment into disaster zones and isolated communities and will be on the site for a maximum of twelve months.

The reason the site is an R&D unit only, is to run some tests on innovation we are working on with prominent universities in pursuit of Zero Emissions. We will be processing clean plastic from the packaging industry and typically reducing volumes of waste by 90-95%. In terms of vehicle movements, there may be one short wheel-based HGV truck entering the site via the St Cuthbert’s Mill entrance per week and there will be no HGVs passing through LA Moore’s yard.

Our emissions are insignificant from this small plant and fully compliant with UK and European legislation. The units themselves are self-contained and the chimney that is used in the process is designed to release a small amount of steam and heat, so there will be no threat of dangerous pollutants blowing across the local countryside. Email dave.lewis@reachplc.com with your feedback on this story and other local news stories from across the Mendips.

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