Darwen’s £300m incinerator plans suspended by Suez

FLAGSHIP proposals to build a £300million state-of-the-art energy recovery center to turn millions of black bin bags and their contents into steam and electricity have been put on hold.

Suez Recycling and Recovery UK’s program at its Lower Eccleshill Road site, Darwen, is now in doubt with a planned 2024 launch date impossible.

When announced to much fanfare in January 2019, the company said the new incinerator would create 50 new jobs.

The new plant, which would incinerate non-recyclable waste and turn it into steam and electricity for sale to the national grid and nearby businesses, would be built on the site of the company’s existing waste transfer facility.

In August 2019, the proposal won Blackburn planning permission with Darwen Council, then regeneration boss and now Chief Cllr Phil Riley hailing the project as a ‘major boost for the borough’ .

But now its future is in doubt as Suez awaits a decision from Lancashire County Council on whether it will use the proposed plant to recycle its blackbag waste, rather than send it to the Whinney Hill point of the company in Altham.

The question mark over the future of the scheme is revealed in documents submitted to Blackburn with the planning department of the Darwen Council by Suez.

A scoping report regarding the environmental impact of a new anaerobic digestion facility – which turns food waste into fuel – at the Lower Eccleshill Road site said: “Due to market forces, it is now difficult to know whether the Energy from Waste (EfW) facility will be developed.

“If EfW is not built, Suez would still like to develop a suite of modern energy recovery facilities on the site, and the first phase of this master plan would include a 100,000 tonne per year anaerobic digestion facility. .”

Energy from the proposed waste plant in 2019 would process 500,000 tonnes of waste each year, the equivalent of more than 70 million black bin bags, which would otherwise go to landfill.

The majority of the waste would come from the county of Lancashire and Blackburn with advice from Darwen.

Suez runs eight similar centers across the UK, including one in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, and the eye-catching Isle of Man incinerator.

The delay in the start of construction – which would take three years – means that the planned start of operation in 2024 will now be missed, with 2026 being the soonest possible.

John Wilkinson, Regional Director of Suez, said: “We are keen to invest in the development of our existing resource recovery park on Lower Eccleshill Road in Darwen, not only to protect existing jobs, but also to create new ones.

“While we have planning permission for a waste-to-energy center on site, we are also working on plans for an anaerobic digestion facility to process food waste.

“If planning permission were to be granted for an anaerobic digester, then we would be well placed to move forward quickly.”

Cllr Jim Smith, Blackburn with Darwen Council environment boss, said: ‘We will continue to work closely with Suez and look forward to seeing potential future investments and plans unfold.

“Large-scale planning applications, such as this, are often subject to market conditions, and by considering several different options for the site, Suez puts itself, and therefore us, in the best possible position to move forward.”

A Lancashire County Council spokesperson said: “We are currently reviewing our waste management strategy.

“We have provisions in place for the management of residual waste until 2025. We have not conducted any procurement exercises for the management of food waste or residual waste after 2025.”

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