Thumbs up for hi-tech waste plant

SHAUN LOWTHORPE People power today won the day as planners gave the green light to a new recycling facility aimed at cutting landfill in Norfolk.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

People power yesterday won the day as planners gave the green light to a new recycling facility aimed at cutting landfill in Norfolk.

Waste firm Sustainable Resource Management (SRM) wants to build the facility on the Longwater Industrial Estate in Costessey, near Norwich, next to a recycling plant run by its parent company Norfolk Environmental Waste Services.

Four giant towers clad in blue and yellow polycarbonate panels would be at the heart of the proposal which would divert 150,000 tonnes of waste from landfill.

County councillors backed the proposal, despite concerns about the visual impact of the tiles, after hearing the colour scheme was the overwhelming choice of residents during a public consultation.

Other issues raised included the effect of increased traffic at the Longwater junction and concerns about smells. An application for a car park is to follow.

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The decision marks a major turnaround in the fortunes for the SRM bid, which was previously the county's second choice scheme. The authority had originally hoped that a controversial incinerator scheme by waste firm WRG to produce energy from waste was the answer to tackling the landfill mountain.

But massive public opposition and problems over landownership - with a last-ditch attempt to switch the incinerator to Trowse - saw WRG stripped of its preferred bidder status.

The meeting heard that the SRM proposal would combine a technology known as anaerobic digestion with composting to process the household waste and provide end products.

Traffic growth would be limited and SRM had pledged £15,000 to help rework the junction.

Recyclable products such as metals, plastics and biogas can be converted into electricity or processed as a biofuel.

Linda Mitchell, a local resident and campaigner opposed to earlier plans to build a giant incinerator, told the meeting the colour-scheme was the residents' choice.

"We were faced with an 80m incinerator that wouldn't have been disguised and was a real eyesore," she said. "When this came out it looked like an artistic statement. There was an extensive roadshow and consultation phase and it was unanimous that everybody wanted this scheme."

Mark Godden, project manager for SRM, said afterwards that all efforts would be focused on wrapping up the final contract with the council.

"This is a significant step forward for the recycling of waste in Norfolk," he said. "It will be one of the most advanced facilities in the world in terms of the combination of technologies and materials being produced."

Ian Monson, cabinet member for the environment, said: "I am delighted that we can proceed to the next stage and hopefully we will have the contracts agreed by May."

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