Frequently Asked Questions

Main questions from the public during BACI’s information stands at various events over Summer 2018

Isn’t it a done deal? Covanta are already building in the Pit

The majority of the work that has taken place in the pit was part of the Low Level Restoration Order – which includes stabilisation of the sides of the pits and construction of a draining solution including the large Attenuation Pond. This order was to be completed by the landowner to restore the land that was abandoned following clay extraction.

Covanta’s planning consent eventually came into force on 28th February 2013 and was valid for 5 years. To ensure this consent did not lapse – it was necessary for Covanta to commence part of the build defined on the permission. Covanta began work on the internal road past Rookery North into Rookery South as part of the requirement to implement the Development Consent Order.

What is the number of HGV movements going to be? Covanta has being saying that it is much less than you are stating

Covanta has recently stated the Bedford Borough Environment and Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee in July and in their Summer Edition Newsletter – that their ‘recent forecast’ and ‘current expectations’ number of HGV movements is lower than 594.

Whatever numbers that are conveyed at this moment in time – the fact remains that Covanta are in possession of the legal planning document which lays out what they can and cannot do. This document is called the Development Consent Order (DCO). This document states Covanta is entitled to have up to 594 (unspecified sized) HGVs movements per day to and from the site.

Extract from the DCO:

Extract re HGV movements from DCO

Will medical waste be burn at Rookery Pit?

Covanta stated at the Bedford Borough Environment and Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee in July and in their Summer Edition Newsletter that the facility will not process Medical Waste. However – Covanta have requested some medical waste codes be included as part of their Environmental Permit.

These codes are 18 01 04 – wastes from natal care, diagnosis, treatment or prevention of disease in humans (not subject to special requirements to prevent infection) and 18 02 03 – wastes from research, diagnosis, treatment or prevention of disease involving animals (not subject to special requirements to prevent infection).

From BACI’s research it would appear that the waste streams for these codes are most likely to include the waste classified by the Government as ‘offensive’ of animal faeces from collection bins and catteries/kennels, feminine hygiene wastes from collection bins, nappy wastes from nurseries and domestic type incontinence wastes.

Research also shows that Covanta has a ongoing initiative to expand current Environmental Permits for their facilities in the US – to be able to take more medical waste in particular expired medication (tablets etc).

How far away will the waste come from?

It was requested by the local authorities and others during the planning process to have an area which waste could be collected from defined in accordance with the proximity principle. However – the resulting Development Consent Order and the accompanying Statement of Reasons from the issuing department (the Infrastructure Planning Commission) does not define a catchment area.

This means that Covanta are free to bring waste to Rookery Pit from wherever they choose.

I am hearing conflicting information about the size of the Incinerator

The question of size has been challenged recently by Covanta. Covanta’s assertion that the site will only be 1/6th the size of Wembley Stadium would appear to be based on volume calculations. When we consider the size of something against something else we do not look at the volume. The Wind Turbine is bigger than Cardington sheds for instance – but what we look at is the overall perspective and its presence in relation to its surroundings.

Covanta states that they will only burn residual waste – is this correct?

Unfortunately despite requests from the Local Authorities – the definition of residual waste was not added to the Development Consent order that is the legal planning document.

At the time that planning was granted – the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) seemed content that the focus of Covanta’s waste stream would be contracting with Local Authorities for household waste.

Sometime after planning was granted – Covanta announced that they are partnered with Veolia – who we are told will providing the waste stream from various customers. Veolia’s main business is in the collection of industrial waste. Veolia also confirmed – as recorded in the minutes of a Community Liaison Panel (CLP) meeting – that the “the waste being targeted is comingled waste, residual waste was defined by the waste producer”


Do we need an Incinerator in this area?

The majority of Incinerators that are built in this country – are built with the support of the Local Authorities due to a need in that area.

The Covanta Incinerator at Rookery Pit will be a purely commercial venture and does not involve the local authorities.  During the planning permission process both Central Bedfordshire County Council and Bedford Borough Council opposed the submission – leading ultimately to a Special Parliamentary Procedure being conducted.

Due to the size of the proposed output of (what was at the time) 65MW – the plant was seen as having national significance and planning permission rights were passed to the IPC (Infrastructure Planning Committee) – so local planning did not have a say apart from over the compulsory purchase of land which is why after planning had been granted by the National  IPC – the case was taken to the Special Parliamentary Procedure who concluded in 2013 that planning permission should stand.

Covanta/Veolia have advised that the waste supplied to the Incinerator will be mainly Commercial waste.

Given the location in the heart of a Community Forest and right next to the Millennium Country Park – why did Covanta receive planning in the first place?

There were several factors that pushed the decision in favour of Covanta:

  • the Marston Vale Trust had already received planning for the wind turbine ‘Marston Mill’ on its Forest Centre grounds. At a height of 120.5 meters it had effectively set the limit for any new proposals. At a height of 105 meters the Covanta chimney was seen as not as intrusive as it might have been.
  • there was a clear message at the time that any proposal which included the production of energy was needed
  • we were unfortunate that the Covanta Proposal was one of the first to be considered by the then newly formed Infrastructure Planning Committee (IPC). Due to the Localism Act 2011 the IPC was replaced by the Planning Inspectorate in early 2012 and only stood ‘judgement’ over very few proposals

Who are Veolia and how are they involved?

Veolia is an established French-based Waste Company who currently operate 7 Incineration (EFW) plants in the UK.

With regards to the Rookery Pit Site – BACI understands that Veolia will be:

  • contributing to the Environmental Permit submission
  • managing construction of the site
  • the primary supplier of the waste for incineration

If Covanta does start operating the Incinerator – won’t that mean employment opportunities?

Despite the size of the development – Covanta’s figures given during a presentation to the Community Liasion Panel in July 2016 estimate only 40 – 50 permanent jobs will be created.