Cries of ‘shame’ and ‘disgrace’ were hurled at councillors during a heated planning meeting in Runcorn this week.
Members of the public asked councillors ‘how they slept at night’ after controversial plans over the town’s odorous incinerator were approved.
Some shouted ‘what a load of b*llocks’ while others screamed ‘we pay your wages’ as they stormed out of the meeting, held at Runcorn Town Hall.
The dramatic scenes happened after an application to increase the amount of waste burned at the town’s controversial energy-from-waste facility was approved, despite widespread objections.
Residents who live near the plant have reported being unable to open their windows because of the vomit inducing smells and loud noises it generates.
The energy recovery facility is the biggest in the UK and burns a staggering 850,000 tonnes of waste per year, including what residents have described as ‘foul-smelling black bin waste.’
The application, submitted by plant managers Viridor to Halton council, proposed removing a restriction on the tonnage of waste that could be imported to the site by road, and instead proposed a restriction on the number of Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGV’s) that can transport that waste.
This would effectively allow the facility to burn an extra 250,000 tonnes of waste per year, which gets converted into heat and energy to power homes.
Objecting the plans Chris Rowe, a Lib-Dem councillor in one of the affected wards, presented the committee with a stack of diaries from local residents which documented years of complaints living next to the facility.
Urging fellow councillors to reject the application he said: “The question you have to ask is will this proposal cause nuisance.
“There is already a body of evidence that proves that the plant already causes nuisance. There are hundreds of complaints by residents, possibly thousands, about noise, odour and steam.
“And if you have any doubts about the validity of the claims, then you need to see these diaries.”
Describing problems faced by residents he continued: “At a recent meeting with residents, councillors from both Heath and Mersey wards were told about the nauseating smell of rotting food preventing people from using their garden and stopping them from opening windows in summer.
“They told us about the rats that have arrived and the flies. They told us of the bedrooms no one can sleep in because of the droning, crashing noises and alarm going off in the night.
“And they told us about the billowing plumes of steam enveloping their houses.”
The saga over the Runcorn incinerator has plagued residents for years.
150 locals are currently taking private action against the plant managers for the smells, while the Parliamentary Health Ombudsman is currently investigating how the Environmental Agency have been handling complaints about the plant
Mr Chris Herbert , an independent environmental consultant who defended the plans on behalf of Viridor at last night’s meeting, was laughed at by members of the public when he said they would have ‘no adverse impact’ on residents.
He said the application would power homes and local industry, generating a more sustainable form of energy while preventing waste from ending up in landfill.
But Cllr Rowe warned that approving the application risked turning Merseyside and Halton into a “dumping ground for the rest of the country” – pointing out that there is already a ‘significant’ number of waste treatment facilities in the region,
Despite widespread concerns, planning officers from Halton council recommended that the application be approved, saying there is no evidence of ‘statuary’ nuisance.
Councillors on the commitee agreed to approve the application after expressing fears they would loose an appeal launched by plant managers Viridour- costing the tax payers thousands.
This did not go down well with locals, who were asked to leave quietly when they began jeering at councillors.
Speaking about the application, Roy Griffin, Viridor’s Head of Operations (North), has previously said: “Since the plant opened in 2015, our team has steadily improved its performance. We are now able to turn more waste into energy, that would otherwise go straight to landfill, and reduce the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels.
“The results of our recent trials of additional throughput have shown that the plant is capable of operating for longer periods of time with fewer maintenance breaks which means that we can maximise the environmental opportunities of the facility.
“Our aim ultimately is to generate more sustainable energy and send less waste to landfill. By processing more RDF, we are also able to provide more support to the Viridor Environmental Fund for local community project.”