CAMPAIGNERS have raised fears up to 400,000 tonnes of waste could be processed at a proposed Brierley Hill recycling plant.
Members of the 'Say No to the Waste site' campaign have aired concerns after discovering Network Rail has agreed to dispose of old railway land off Moor Street to Clean Power Properties which wants to build a state-of-the-art energy recovery centre on the site.
In Network Rail's application to the Office of Rail Regulation to dispose of the land it is stated the proposal would "utilise the existing freight facility and create a much-improved open access rail freight interchange on site" through which "up to 400,000 tonnes per annum of waste/recyclate could theoretically be managed".
Campaigners, however, say the figure is double the amount of waste indicated in Clean Power's application for an Environment Agency permit and they fear recyclable material could be sourced, not just locally, but from other parts of the country.
Tim Lee, of SNOW*, said: "It is clear from email correspondence that these plans are not recent and it looks like the facility could be processing at least twice - maybe three times - the amount of waste previously stated by Clean Power. The implications of these new plans are serious for local residents, schools and businesses."
The application, says the land which was previously used as a steel works terminal would be disposed of on a 250-year lease to Clean Power Properties or another nominated company "within the next six to 12 months, subject to planning consent being granted".
Clean Power Properties declined to comment on the lease but a spokesman said the company was awaiting a decision by the Environment Agency on its application for an environmental operating permit for the site.
A spokesman for the EA said: “If we decide to grant an environmental permit, it will allow activities to be carried out only as described in the application (and any approved amendments during determination), and under the conditions that we consider necessary to protect the environment and human health.
“The proposals by Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd are not covered by Clean Power’s current permit application, they are outside the scope of our determination and would not be allowed by the permit they have applied for.
"If we were to grant a permit any subsequent changes to it would need a variation application. Any significant change such as doubling the waste would be classed as a substantial change, meaning any application for such a variation would be subject to full public consultation as if it were an application for a new permit.”
Clean Power's bid for planning permission for the site was refused by Dudley Council last summer after protestors claimed the centre would create noise and odour pollution and put too many lorries onto Brierley Hill's already busy streets.
The energy company has always maintained lorry movements would be restricted and after withdrawing its appeal it has now submitted an updated planning application which bosses say should address any concerns about odours escaping from the plant.
A spokesman for Clean Power said the revised plan includes an advanced internal airlock system to fully seal the facility as vehicles enter and he added: "The updated planning application now includes additions to the odour management system.
"The improvements mean all aspects of the centre’s operations will now be sealed and operated under negative pressure, preventing any odour releases.
"The rest of the scheme remains the same as previously considered by Dudley.
"Our proposals represent a very significant waste and recycling investment in Brierley Hill. It is needed so the area does not continue landfilling and burning waste that could and should be better utilised.
“It will deliver over 30 jobs in a variety of skilled and technical roles in operation and will support over 150 through the construction programme.
"We are looking forward to working with Dudley Council now these odour management improvements have been made.”