Barnstaple Masterplan and Energy from Waste Proposals
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In November 2008 Devon County Council and North Devon District Council decided to work together to co-ordinate the redevelopment of the Seven Brethren Industrial Estate. The intention is to design a Masterplan for the area so that as development occurs, it happens in a coordinated and structured way, creating a site for the whole community, which takes into account aspects such as appearance, access, the environment, land allocation, sustainability, energy supply and demand.
As developments take place on site, they will need heat and power. This is a unique opportunity to plan for their energy needs – and it could be met through an Energy from Waste plant and heat distribution system. This would use municipal waste from North Devon and Torridge as fuel providing heat and energy to the surrounding area.
The Seven Brethren Industrial Estate is owned by North Devon Council and is viewed as a prime redevelopment site because of its location. It is situated between the Exeter - Barnstaple Railway line and the western bank of the River Taw. Once a landfill site, since 1963 it has been developed as an industrial site, with warehousing and vehicle depots, some retail outlets, car parking and sports facilities.
The Barnstaple Western Bypass and the Downstream Bridge have improved access to the site, encouraging redevelopment proposals. A new North Devon College, refurbishment of the existing leisure centre and Tarka Tennis Centre, and a new supermarket are already in the pipeline. Nearby Anchorwood Bank and Sticklepath Hill are also under consideration as redevelopment sites.
As energy prices continue to rise, a sustainable source of heat and power is an important factor for any new development. Disposing of our waste is also an ongoing issue, and even with increased recycling rates, there is a threshold above which recycling becomes uneconomical. Generating heat and electricity from waste is a preferable alternative, which could supply the new college and other developments nearby. A small plant (50 – 60,000 tonnes) would meet the needs of the community and could fit on the site at the southern end of the estate, already allocated by Devon County Council as a proposed site for ‘Strategic Waste Management Facilities’ in the Devon Waste Local Plan.
Seven Brethren is a key area in terms of economic growth and planning. It is the gateway into Barnstaple, which is destined to become more important as a sub regional centre, so a clear vision for the town and development is essential. A coordinated development of the site could provide many benefits for the local community. It would improve the appearance of the estate dramatically - an important consideration when tourism is crucial to the local economy. An enhanced river frontage with greater access would mean more people could use the area, providing better leisure facilities and open spaces. Logistically, using waste to generate energy diverts it away from landfill. This is better for the environment and costs less, which is good for council tax payers. The energy generated by the EfW plant could be sold on to other customers such as the new college, thereby cutting their carbon footprint, and also offsetting the running costs of the plant.
It is a design for the area which considers many different factors to ensure that the outcome has clear economic, environmental, social and logistical advantages for the whole community. It has to contemplate issues specific to the site, such as assessments of flood risks, traffic movements, urban design features and access for pedestrians, cyclists, public transport, cars and HGVs.
Ongoing consultation of the community and stakeholders is a vital part of the process, and initial feedback suggested the major issues were:
- The appearance of the site needs improving, to attract more business and investment. The Masterplan needs to be flexible enough to cope with development over the next 20 years.
- The site is a gateway into Barnstaple, and it needs to create a sense of ‘arrival’. For example, the railway is hidden from view and needs to be more prominent.
- The river frontage needs enhancing with better community access to link the two sides of the town.
- Walking, cycling and public transport facilities need improving, but there also needs to be a sustainable allocation of parking.
- The site has potential for a bus/rail hub to relieve pressure on the existing bus station; rail freight should also be considered.
- The risk of flooding needs to be taken into account – developments need to show that it would not increase the risk of flooding elsewhere, so a study is underway for consideration by the Environment Agency.
- A potential link from the bypass is an important factor to improve road access onto the site. A traffic assessment is underway to assess when this road might become necessary and consider any other factors to ensure the best outcome.
- Development on site should set an environmental benchmark and be as sustainable as possible.
The Masterplan envisages a step by step development, happening in stages over 20 years.
The draft Masterplan identifies proposed and possible developments over a number of time periods: 0-18 months, 18 months to 5 years, 5 to 10 years and 10 to 20 years.
Like all local authorities, Devon County Council and North Devon Council are working hard with communities to reduce the amount of waste produced. Recent EU legislation means councils will be fined £150 for each tonne of waste landfilled over their allowance, a cost that could affect council tax bills. This allowance will reduce year on year, so reducing, reusing, recycling and composting waste remain a top priority. The aim is to reach a target of 65% recycling by 2025 - the current rate is 50%. Recycling past 60-65% becomes more difficult and expensive, however, so it is best to recover energy from the remainder of the waste using a clean, reliable and safe process. A comprehensive study undertaken recently by independent consultants showed it would be feasible to develop a small scale Energy from Waste plant to take around 50-60,000 tonnes of residual waste per year at the Seven Brethren site. The size of the plant has been based on the existing and future residual waste (waste which cannot be recycled efficiently or economically) from North Devon and Torridge District Council areas. This residual waste is currently sent to the landfill site at Deep Moor, Great Torrington. This type of plant can produce approximately 3 MWe of electricity and up to 6 MWth of low temperature heat, which can be sold on to other customers. The number of traffic movements on the B3232 would be reduced considerably by diverting waste from Deep Moor landfill to Seven Brethren.
Residual waste from the Torridge area could be bulked up at a transfer station if one were to be built at Deep Moor, reducing vehicle movements further. Organic waste would continue to be processed at Deep Moor. A planning application for the EfW plant would be accompanied by an Environmental Statement, which would consider and address all of its environmental impacts. The Seven Brethren Recycling Centre will need to be relocated next to the proposed EfW plant. The current Recycling Centre needs upgrading to modern standards to cope with the increased number of households proposed over the coming years. At the moment, the site isn’t particularly user friendly, so fewer people can use it, but a redesign would bring benefits for users and the local community. By making it split level the site would be more efficient making better use of the land available and allowing landscaping to be improved.
Even with increased recycling and a stabilized rate of waste growth, the communities of Torridge and the North Devon area will produce over 50,000 tonnes of waste every year that can’t be recycled. It cannot be landfilled either without incurring large fines.
We need to find a way to deal with this waste, so Devon County Council and North Devon Council have been looking at the most effective way to manage this in partnership. In terms of how the waste is actually dealt with, or treated, energy from waste has emerged as the preferred option.
The residual domestic waste from households in North Devon and Torridge is landfilled at Deep Moor landfill site near Torrington.
EfW is a process where energy is derived by burning waste. The combustion process produces high-pressure steam that can be converted to electrical power by the use of a turbine and generator. This electricity can be fed into the national grid or supplied to local industry. It is a clean, reliable technology that is in use across the UK and Europe.
EfW plants can also be used to supply high-pressure hot water or steam that can be used for industrial or domestic heating. This type of facility is known as a combined heat and power plant, because of the two types of energy it produces.
These plants are highly efficient and strongly supported by current Government policy. If the partnership opts for energy from waste, then the facility could provide both electricity and heat to nearby industrial and/or municipal facilities.
Locating an Energy from Waste plant at Seven Brethren would provide a unique opportunity to provide electricity and energy to a number of proposed developments including a new North Devon College, a refurbished leisure centre and a supermarket. The facility could provide a sustainable, secure and economical source of energy for these facilities and for future developments in the vicinity. In terms of land use planning the Seven Brethren site came through the County Council’s Waste Local Plan process as a suitable site for Strategic Waste Management Facilities including Energy from Waste.
The proposed programme identifies September 2013 as the date when the plant will become operational. The contract for its operation is likely to be for 25 years.
Whilst the initial heat customers could be North Devon College and the refurbished Leisure Centre, there is scope to provide both heat and cooling services to the supermarket development. Other potential heat customers include the nearby redevelopment of the Anchorwood Bank and prospective development at the existing College site. The feasibility of extending the heat network to the Civic Centre, Roundswell and other commercial and residential developments will also be examined. Electricity could be sold to individual businesses near to the plant, through a private wire network, allowing cost reductions of around 10% to consumers. Heat could be sold as hot water circulated in special pipes, replacing normal hot water supply methods and also at a substantial discount.
Recently energy prices have gone up significantly, so the cost and security of energy supply is likely to become a real issue in the coming years. Therefore, the ability of a Barnstaple EfW plant to supply electricity and hot water to local consumers at a fixed price (plus inflation) will be a major benefit to the Seven Brethren development. It would provide a reliable and environmentally sustainable solution, which can help meet the future energy needs of the community. Compared to landfill, an EfW plant that is able to provide heat as well as electricity to customers, can potentially achieve a 40% net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
To date, the various proposals for the Seven Brethren estate amounts to around £200m of investment (including the EfW proposal). The funds come from a mixture of private sector investment, government grants and local authority investment.
The current estimated costs for the proposed EfW plant are £39.9m including the plant, the heat distribution network, relocating the Recycling Centre and building a transfer station.
The Council will enter into a contract for a private sector partner to build and operate a facility that serves the needs of the local communities. The facility will therefore accept household and municipal waste (ie the rubbish put out by every household to be collected and some commercial waste) from Barnstaple and the surrounding region. By agreement, any surplus capacity in the plant might be used to provide waste treatment and disposal needs for local businesses.
The Councils are developing a solution to meet the future needs of Barnstaple and the surrounding area in the north of Devon. The facility will be designed to have capacity to deal with municipal waste from North Devon and Torridge District Council areas.
In the UK today, most of the waste we produce is landfilled. However, existing landfill space is running out. The latest directive from the EU means that we have to reduce the amount of biodegradable municipal waste we landfill every year, or risk fines.
At the same time, each council is making significant efforts to increase the amount of recycling and minimise waste production, but this will not completely solve the problem. There is a practical limit to the amount of waste that can be recycled, so we have to consider other means to treat our waste to meet the landfill diversion targets.
The government’s recent policy document, 'Waste Strategy 2007', suggests an integrated approach to waste management using several different processes. So to try and reduce our dependence on landfill, the government wants us to look at other processes including recycling and energy recovery.
Like most authorities, the Councils rely on landfill for the disposal of the majority of waste that cannot be reused, recycled or composted. However, due to the above changes in policy and legislation, councils have to look for a different and more efficient approach to waste management. A new waste treatment facility will help the three authorities to reduce their dependence on landfill and meet government targets in a cost effective and environmentally friendly way.
The recycling rate varies between the authorities – Devon’s recycling and composting rate for 2007/2008 is a tremendous 49% and by 2025/2026 we are aiming to achieve a recycling and composting rate of 65%. North Devon and Torridge Councils are both recycling over 40% of householder’s waste and these rates are also set to increase to 60% and above where economically and technologically possible. Reducing and re-using waste as well as recycling and composting will remain the highest priorities for all the local authorities.
However, there will always be a proportion of our waste which can’t be recycled that will need other solutions. A modern, appropriately sized and regulated waste treatment facility such as a modern energy from waste plant, provides a good way to achieve the required diversion away from landfill.
This is a common claim made against waste treatment facilities in general, but when a sensible approach is used in the sizing of a facility (ie limiting the capacity of the plant) then there will always be plenty of scope to increase recycling to national levels set by the government and beyond.
It is also important to consider the growth of waste in the recent past: this has been significant at around 1% every year nationally. It is a key priority for local authorities and the government to reverse this trend, but so far there has been mixed success. Despite public campaigns to persuade people to reduce the amount of household waste produced, it has continued to increase over time and with the predicted rise in the number of households, we need to cater for growth.
Our new facility will be part of an integrated waste management solution which has been deliberately sized to be appropriate to the amount of waste produced by the communities in Barnstaple and surrounding areas, so as not to 'crowd out' recycling. The Councils and waste contractors are making strenuous efforts to significantly increase the level of materials recycled in the area.
Under the ‘Don’t let Devon go to waste’ awareness raising campaign, the Councils are developing measures to persuade the public to reduce their waste and recycle more, as well as working with the Devon Authorities' Waste Reduction and Recycling Committee (DAWRRC) to promote recycling. For example:
- Providing new and improved Recycling Centres – Bideford has a new site and as part of the development at Seven Brethren a new Recycling Centre will be provided
- Expansion of organic waste collection service
- Increased recycling collection with additional kerbside wheeled bin and box systems and collection vehicles
- A substantial network of 'bring' sites enabling the public to drop off plastic and glass bottles, tins, paper, cans etc
- A new in-vessel composting facility at Deep Moor substantially increasing the quantity of garden and kitchen waste which can be composted
Working with many partnerships to promote waste reduction including the Real Nappy campaign, the Devon Community Composting Network and Devon Furniture Reuse Network and WRAP’s national Love Food Hate Waste campaign.
More information on reducing, reusing, recycling and composting and the work of DAWRRC can be found on Devon Authorities Recycling Partnership website.
The Municipal Waste Management Strategy for Devon was published in March 2005 after consultation with the public, waste industry and environmental groups. This plan identifies the main priorities for waste management including energy recovery in the county. A Waste Local Plan that considered locations for waste treatment was published in June 2006 after wide ranging consultation.
In Barnstaple the Councils have undertaken stakeholder consultation for the Seven Brethren Masterplan incorporating the Energy from Waste proposals on a regular basis. The stakeholders include independent advisers, professionals, local commerce and industry representatives and regulatory bodies. As plans are proposed, a consultation period is built in, to assess the views and gain input into proposals as part of the democratic process. This is done through advertisements in the media, on the website, in the council buildings, workshops, exhibitions and through professional researchers. A public exhibition of the draft proposals will be held in Barnstaple on the following dates:
- 12th March 10am-8pm North Devon Leisure Centre, Seven Brethren
- 13th March 9.30am-5pm Greenlanes Shopping centre, Barnstaple
- 14th March 9.30am-5pm Greenlanes Shopping Centre, Barnstaple
Yes. The process is completely safe. All EfW facilities are strictly regulated and controlled by the Environment Agency to ensure that there is no danger to human health or the environment.
In recent years, the standards required for the operation of facilities such as EfW have increased dramatically, thanks to new legislation from the European Union. The performance of modern EfW facilities is in no way comparable to that of older incinerators that have operated in other parts of the UK, and subsequently have been modified or closed.
EfW means the processing of waste in a way that generates usable energy. This is usually in the form of electricity, heat or a combination of the two. EfW divides into two broad categories:
- Anaerobic digestion is a process that uses bacteria to decompose the waste. Methane gas is given off which directly fuels generators. Anaerobic digestion is very effective in treating a narrow range of waste particularly food waste. If the waste being digested can be guaranteed free of general mixed waste the residue from this process can be used on land as a soil conditioner.
- Thermal treatment of the waste to raise steam, which is used to generate electricity and provide heat to nearby industries and or community facilities. This produces an end product of bottom ash which can be used as a low grade aggregate or landfilled, and fly ash (from cleaning the gases in the chimney stack). This is often re-used in the treatment of other industrial wastes before being disposed of by landfill. Thermal treatment is an effective means of dealing with the wide variety of waste which is unsuitable for recycling. This category includes a variety of similar processes such as moving grate, rotating kiln, fluidised bed, pyrolysis/gasification and plasma treatment technologies.
It is not unusual to use both of these processes in dealing with different components of the waste stream to ensure maximum value is recovered from the waste.
EfW is a clean, proven and reliable process. EfW facilities have an insignificant impact on the air quality of the surrounding area. They do not increase the risk to human health beyond that which already existed in the area from other activities associated with normal life. Assessments and studies on energy from waste plants have concluded that the actual risk to human health from the atmospheric emissions released are negligible. These conclusions are supported by government agencies such as the Health Protection Agency and other independent qualified organisations.
See the Municipal Solid Waste Incineration document from the Health Protection Agency for more information.
In fact, EfW facilities are the most highly regulated industrial plants in the UK in terms of their emissions to atmosphere and are required by law to monitor the levels of any substances emitted. Once in operation, an energy from waste facility must conform to the Waste Incineration Directive, which was incorporated into English law through the Waste Incineration (England and Wales) Regulations 2002. This sets strict limits on the quantities of pollutants a thermal treatment plant may produce. All modern waste combustion processes would be expected to produce substantially less pollution than permissible under the Waste Incineration Directive.
A thorough Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) must be carried out for any site and facility as part of the planning application and permitting process.
There will be reduced traffic movements on the B3232 to Deep Moor landfill site. There will be a small number of extra traffic movements into the Estate to the proposed EfW plant (in the region of 15-20 each way or fewer if the waste is bulked up at Deep Moor). However, these will occur throughout the working day, not adding to peak hour traffic. A Traffic Assessment is currently being carried out to assess the impact of all the proposed and possible future developments at Seven Brethren to ensure that the road infrastructure can be designed to accommodate the predicted traffic movements.
These detailed assessments and surveys are being undertaken as part of any planning application, which would identify any potential issues. Specific road or traffic improvements and control measures could then be put in place, if needs be.
The possibility of using the railway for waste transport is still being considered but would be subject to logistics, the quantities of waste to be transported, costs and suitability and capacity of the rail infrastructure and timescales.
No, they don’t. This is partly because waste is not stored at the site very long before being treated. It is also because the air inside the plant is kept at a slightly negative pressure to prevent odours escaping. So, the waste to be burnt is delivered into an enclosed area called the waste hall and then fed into a kiln. The air inside the waste hall is sucked into the furnace so that in effect, any odour that does accumulate inside the facility is burnt.
The Environment Agency (EA) is the regulator for all waste facilities and uses the very tough Pollution Prevention and Control legislation to control and monitor operations and emissions. The EA has legal powers to prosecute any organisation that does not operate within the conditions set out in the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) authorisation.
See the Health Protection Agency's Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control webpage for more information.
The Barnstaple EfW facility operators will have to apply for and subsequently operate under an IPPC permit.
Emissions of dioxins are extremely low and well below the threshold at which they could be determined to be a threat to human health. This is supported by a wealth of scientific evidence, and the Environment Agency (which is the body that issues the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Authorisation allowing the plant to operate).
The authorisation given by the agency includes strict monitoring of emissions. If these are not maintained, the agency has the power to shut a plant down.
The emission limits themselves are very tight and allow for several margins of safety - ie they would have to be exceeded by several orders of magnitude before a significant pollution risk to health. This is a hypothetical situation because a plant would be forcibly shut down long before this stage was reached.
The Environment Agency has legal powers of access to waste treatment plants for inspection, with no prior notice, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. Such powers are used by the Agency at plants throughout the country.
It must also be remembered that dioxins are emitted by a wide variety of sources, such as power plants, bonfires, diesel engines, cement kilns, steel plants, open fires in the home, jet engines, forest fires to name but a few. The modern standards to which energy from waste plants must now operate mean that dioxin emissions are equivalent to existing, background levels in urban soils.
There is no justification to state that an EfW plant is a risk to human health because of emissions to air, whether dioxins or otherwise.
There are two types of solid residues resulting from EfW plant operations, called bottom ash and fly ash.
The bottom ash (sometimes called clinker) is an inert substance that can be recycled as a secondary aggregate for concrete block making, or used on a landfill for the construction of site roads or to provide a covering layer on top of the waste. The proportion of bottom ash to incoming waste is about 20% by weight, although the reduction is volume is much greater, at more than 90%.
The fly ash is a much smaller proportion, at around 2.5% of the incoming waste, although this is increased to around 5% by the addition of spent lime, which has been used in the flue gas treatment (anti-pollution) system. The fly ash is taken by sealed tanker to a secondary treatment plant, and then to a hazardous waste landfill, which is likely to be outside the Westcountry. It is classed as hazardous because it is very alkaline, but this means it could also be used in other industrial processes to neutralise acidic materials.
An EfW plant has three main methods of controlling pollution, which ensure that it can comply with the extremely stringent standards specified by the European Union, and applied by the Environment Agency through the IPPC Authorisation. These methods are:
- Always keeping the temperatures within the process at predetermined levels, even when starting the plant up and shutting it down. This is achieved by using gas fired burners that automatically start up if the temperature falls. By carefully controlling temperature, the creation of pollutants is minimised thus giving a low 'starting point' for the next stage of gas clearing.
- By using special reagents to clean the gas stream. For example, lime is used to neutralise the acid components and urea is injected to reduce the NOX (oxides of nitrogen).
- By using very sophisticated filtration systems to remove particulate material - there are likely to be more than hundreds of filter bags present in the system and there is no way for the gas to avoid passing through them before exiting from a plant.
Plants have to employ a Continuous Emission Monitoring System (CEMS) - which constantly checks the level of emissions from the plant, to see that they comply with the strict regulations.
It is a legal requirement that the CEMS operates at all times; if it is not working, then the plant is not allowed to operate.
The results from the CEMS will be displayed on the contractor’s website, and will be available as a printed copy from the public register.
The design of the EfW plant has not been finalised. Its visual impact in the setting of Seven Brethren and within Barnstaple itself is being carefully considered. The design for the proposed plant at Exeter can be seen at Devon County Council's Energy from Waste page. A possible design is shown below, but other options are being considered.
The carbon footprint of our future solution is an important factor and a priority for the authorities. In considering this in relation to EfW plants, it is necessary to take into account several different types of emissions. The transport emissions from moving the waste, those of the technology used, and where energy is produced, the emissions saved from not burning coal or natural gas. An Energy from waste plant, with combined heat and power, has a significant carbon benefit, compared to current landfill arrangements. Indeed there would be a 32-41% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to landfilling the same waste. The higher figure applies if the heat produced can be used in addition to the electricity generated.
No, the Health Protection Agency, which is the independent agency charged with looking after public health in England, and advises on all aspects of risks to health states in its latest report into municipal solid waste and incineration that:
" ..there is little evidence to suggest that incinerators are associated with increased prevalence of respiratory symptoms in the surrounding population."
It also goes on to say:
"Cancer, respiratory disease and birth defects were all considered, and no evidence was found for a link between the incidence of the disease and the current generation of incinerators."
"Epidemiological studies, and risk estimates based on estimated exposures, indicate that the emissions from such incinerators have little effect on health."
So, this means that whilst there may be a higher rate of cardiac and respiratory problems in some locations, they will not be made worse if a facility were to be developed in the area.
We value your opinions. You can let us know your thoughts by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to us at Waste Management, EEC Directorate, Devon County Council, County Hall, Exeter, EX2 4QW.