Environment Secretary Intervenes in Incinerator Licensing Amid Controversy

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay intervened to stop incinerators across England, including in his constituency, raising questions about waste management policies and potential conflicts of interest. Anti-incineration campaigners welcome the pause, but the company behind a controversial project has threatened legal action.

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Emmanuel Abara Benson
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Environment Secretary Intervenes in Incinerator Licensing Amid Controversy

Environment Secretary Intervenes in Incinerator Licensing Amid Controversy

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay personally intervened to ask for advice on whether ministers could stop incinerators being licensed across England, including a controversial project in his constituency. Barclay made an urgent request to government lawyers the day after planning permission was granted to build a waste plant in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.

The company behind the plant, MVV Environment, has now threatened the government with legal action after a temporary ban on permits was put in place. Barclay has said he formally stepped away from decisions on incinerators on February 27, but a request for advice was sent to lawyers by an official in his ministerial office almost a week earlier on February 21.

A junior minister later wrote to the Environment Agency saying he intended to halt decisions on permits for up to a year, but a top government lawyer warned this would be "unlawful" and raised "serious concerns of perceived bias". The government has said the pause on deciding permits was to allow environment department officials to lead a piece of work considering the role of waste incineration in the management of residual wastes in England, and it is set to last until May 24 but could be lifted earlier.

Why this matters: The intervention by the Environment Secretary and subsequent temporary ban on incinerator permits has raised questions about the government's waste management policies and potential conflicts of interest. The controversy highlights the ongoing debate over the role of incineration in England's waste management strategy and its environmental impact.

Anti-incineration campaigners have said that an assessment of the role of waste incineration in England is long overdue. The pause on deciding permits, set to last until May 24 unless lifted earlier, is intended to allow officials to consider this issue. However, the company behind the Wisbech plant, MVV Environment, has threatened legal action over the temporary ban, adding further complexity to the situation.

Key Takeaways

  • Environment Secretary Barclay intervened to stop incinerator permits in England.
  • Barclay's request for legal advice preceded a temporary ban on incinerator permits.
  • The government's pause on permits is to review waste incineration's role in England.
  • The company behind a Wisbech incinerator has threatened legal action over the ban.
  • The controversy highlights the ongoing debate over incineration's environmental impact.