MMAG report on IPC Preliminary Meeting – January 17th 2011

MMAG supporters attended the IPC preliminary meeting with the IPC along with representatives of parishes and town councils, local authorities, community/leisure/environment groups and concerned residents. The IPC will produce a report and this will be available on their website.

This meeting did not go into the merits of the application but confined itself to how the IPC will conduct its examination. Supporters may remember that when the IPC introduced themselves to us some months ago they pointed out that the IPC process would be faster and not dominated by lawyers. Surprise, surprise both Central Beds, Bedford Borough and Covanta were represented by Q.C’s with solicitors representing other organisations such as Network Rail!

The key issues were identifying the principal issues and whether there was any need for issue specific hearings where people could make oral representations. The IPC had already identified air quality, compulsory acquisition, landscape/visual impact,transportation and waste recovery and management as principal issues and that in their view none of the issues so far identified required examination other than through written representations – they want to do it all by post ! This lead to trenchant contributions from ourselves and many others. Special mention should be made
(if we forget to mention you please don’t be offended) of David Tolland, Marston resident, Sue Clarke, coordinator of town and parish councils responses to IPC, Ian Clapham of the Bedfordshire Consortium, Ian Pickering of Aspley Guise Parish Council, Tony Hare and John Guthrie, Bedford Mayoral candidates, David Cooper of Our Marston Vale, Lynn Faulkner of Elstow and the CPRE for encouraging the IPC to broaden the scope of their principal issues and to ensure people are heard literally. MMAG made the point that when people are not heard, this feeds civil unrest and that demonstrations are the only recourse. The IPC will reflect further but its MMAG’s assessment that the IPC wishes to minimise what contact it has with the public despite the local authority QC pointing out that matters such as landscape are better discussed orally than in writing.

The IPC were upfront about the fact they face impending abolition and the lead commissioner observed that we were participating in a first in planning history – let’s hope its also the last !

MMAG believes it is vital that we don’t focus exclusively on the adverse impacts – bad as they are : for to do so means we are allowing ourselves to be positioned in the Nimby corner. Equally important is challenging the credentials of the Energy from Waste plant. Clearly with the potential to produce 65MW of electricity it exceeds the threshold of what the Planning Act defines nationally significant energy infrastructure (50>MW). The plant consumes 15MW of that processing waste leaving a net 50MW (just barely above the threshold) for transmission to the national grid which Covanta claim can provide power for 82,500 homes (Bedford & Marston Vale). However 50MW distributed amongst that many homes would struggle as David of OMV has calculated to power in each home a vacuum cleaner. So Covanta exaggerate its contribution and we must ensure the IPC weighs the negligible benefits against the significant adverse impacts. Our local concerns should then truly trump any national advantage.

We should hear more from the IPC by January 21st. This is going to be a complicated business, necessarily and we must all lend our shoulder to the wheel as we face stormy waters ahead !

Stewart Long