Sunday, 10 October 2010

The results of our talks with Biffa

As most of our regular readers know Biffa were instructed by the Plans Panel East to go away and have more inclusive talks with the residents of East Leeds before submitting their plans for a an incinerator to process 380,000 tonnes of commercial and industrial waste per year at the old Power Station A site at Skelton Grange. The second such plant proposed in the same small area of East Leeds.

They agreed to meet a limited number of our members at their site for talks which were held on 28 September 2010. Sarah Covell, Sue Lynch, Philip Tempest and David Faranoff went along to speak to them.

The presentation was very thorough and well put together. They had obviously spent a lot of money on glossy brochures, which they were very reluctant to give to us, but the basis of the argument boils down to the fact that the incinerator they plan is just across the river from one of the proposed sites for the Municipal incinerator at Knostrop.

Some of the points raised:

· The incineration process - they brought out evidence to show that the process is safe in modern incinerators and that there are no recorded ill effects from incineration.

· There are equally prestigious studies by renowned scientific bodies contradicting this point of view and some potential hazards which could occur are not monitored at all.

· They say that if we do not burn this rubbish we will have to put it in Landfill

· This is not true - it will have to be dealt with but it does not have to be landfill, in fact we know of no one in favour of that solution.

· They say that their plant processing 380,000 tonnes of industrial and commercial waste per year can produce heat for nearby businesses - Energy from Waste

· There are no businesses near by as yet and if they do not come or do not wish to use the heat for whatever reason it might simply go to waste. Incineration is a very inefficient way to generate this kind of heat.

· They say that they are building a Waste Recycling plant in Leeds and want to recycle more

· We agree and applaud this - but the fact remains that they plan to run this plant for a minimum of 25 years burning waste. If we successfully recycle more and more waste where will their fuel come from?

· The plume from the 90m chimneys will be blown across East Leeds towards Temple Newsam

· There will potentially be two incinerators blowing their plumes in that direction, not counting the two already working and the other industrial processes as well

· There will be jobs for local people

· Well, no not really - the specialised jobs will go to highly trained people working in the industry already. Construction jobs will go to whoever the contractor employed decides and there is no guarantee that they will be British let alone from East Leeds or even Yorkshire as a whole. There may be a possibility of apprenticeships, but how many and if they would be available to the young people of East Leeds on a preferential basis - again there would be no guarantee

· Money from Biffa to recompense the host community for the clear disadvantages of having such a plant

· Well again no guarantees on if, how much and where it would be spent. Whilst it is true that our area will suffer most directly from the plant it will not be the only area of Leeds that will be affected. There may be some money but it will have to go a long way.

After hashing out all the arguments, only some of which appear above, we felt that we could not support the Biffa bid any more than the Municipal one. We are unconvinced of the total safety of the process though we do not buy into some of the more ridiculous health claims put forward. We are unhappy about the effect of one or two of these plants added to the two we have on the already poor air quality in the east of Leeds and we foresee that becoming an incinerator hot spot with one, two, three or four of these plants operating in our area very close to homes, schools and main transport routes will have detrimental effect on the area's chances of real regeneration which its otherwise unique geographical position would provide.

Lastly our campaign has never been one of simple NIMBYism. We definitely do not want an incinerator here so close to our community but neither do we wish to inflict one on any other community either. We feel that if we decided to say "well it is further away and it is not going to cost us anything to build unlike the Municipal one" we would be giving the green light to a process we feel is actually harmful to the residents of Leeds, now and in the future, and which could open the door to even more incinerator operators, after all if Biffa think that they can build this plant and run it at a profit for 25+ years why not someone else?

We listened to Biffa and wish to thank them for their time and trouble but in the end, having weighed the facts as we see them very carefully, the committee voted 9-0 against the Biffa proposals.

Their bid will be going to Planning in the next week or so and we will get a chance to take a detailed look at the fine print. We urge as many of you as possible to go on line and read the documents. There will be hundreds I fear but on such an important issue as this we have to be prepared to do the research and give the material our best attention.

So the fight goes on for the hearts and minds of the Councillors who will make these decisions and the council officers who will advise them. We have little choice in the matter if we intend to defend not only our community but our city from what we feel is a mistaken 19th century solution to a 21st century problem.

Waste should be seen, and indeed become, not a problem but valuable resource to be used properly for the good of the residents of Leeds. We should be lobbying our councillors for better recycling and curb side collections, rewarding households ready and willing to make greater efforts at recycling and using a carrot and stick approach on businesses to keep down or cut out packaging unless it is really needed. After all you don't have to package oranges or pineapples, nature has already done that and with wrappings that can be composted down!

The committee would really like to hear feedback from you on any and all of the above and look forward to adding your comments below.


  1. Realistically there was no way that No2 could back biffa - we would ahve been seen as hypercritical in the extreme if we had. Just like to point out it was a unanimous decision by all who met last week so we are solid to the core on No2 incineration.

  2. I agree but some people feel powerless against the huge machine that is a company with the resources of Biffa or the Council and feel they may have to settle for the lesser of two evils.
    Of course that is not what will they will get of course but it does seem a tempting offer at first glance, it is only when you look more carefully that you see you are likely to be 'as bad burnt as scalded' as my mother would say.
    We need to stay strong and united and not be picked off one by one. If we stand together they will not be able to just ride roughshod over us, as they will if we fragment.