Pause on new incinerator decisions extended by government

Protest against a proposed incinerator

New large incinerators will not be granted planning permission in England until the government has finished considering how many are needed.

In April, the Environment Agency was told to stop issuing operating permits while officials carried out more work.

Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho will not decide on any planning applications for large incinerators until this is complete, the BBC now understands.

She has formally delayed ruling on a site near Scunthorpe until July.

A decision on whether to grant a development consent order for the North Lincolnshire Green Energy Park site was due to be made on Friday.

The decision to stop issuing permits has affected at least one project in Corby, Northamptonshire, and another in Wisbech, in Environment Secretary Steve Barclay's North East Cambridgeshire constituency.

He had described the proposed waste-to-energy incinerator as a "massive blot on the landscape", before recusing himself from the planning process.

In a written statement, Ms Coutinho said she was extending the deadline until 18 July.

She said this was to ensure there was "sufficient time for the Department [for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] to consider the outcome of the piece of work being carried out by Defra officials to consider the role of waste incineration capacity in the management of residual wastes in England".

When the order to pause the granting of permits was issued by environment minister Sir Mark Spencer in April, he suggested Defra's work would be completed by 24 May.

He said he was worried about the risk that expanding incineration capacity could pose to the government's environmental obligations.

Defra officials are looking at whether the capacity being developed fits with a target to halve the amount of waste incinerated, and at concerns about "over-provision".

Plants which dispose of clinical or hazardous waste are exempt from the pause.

Mr Barclay told a committee of MPs in March he had never made representations as secretary of state to the Environment Agency about the Wisbech project.

He also said he had delegated the policy to another minister and apologised for not formally recusing himself earlier.

The company behind the North Lincolnshire scheme, Solar21, has been approached for comment.