FEARS of campaigners that experts overseeing Gloucestershire's incinerator plans may not be "independent" have been dismissed by the council.
Gloucestershire County Council has given BPP Consulting the job of overseeing the planning process for the £500million waste burner it wants Urbaser Balfour Beatty to build and run at Javelin Park, Haresfield.
Anti-incinerator campaigners say the appointment is wrong because the firm worked with Buckinghamshire County Council ahead of approval for the incinerator there. The furore escalated on Monday night when Hardwicke parish councillors called for an investigation into the appointment.
Vice chairman David Moss said: "It doesn't seem right that a firm who helped to get another incinerator approved should be appointed and labelled as 'independent'."
The meeting heard, and the county council has confirmed, that it has appointed Chris Kenneford as its senior planning officer for the incinerator – who previously worked for the Buckinghamshire local authority and recommended approval of that burner.
Campaign group Glosvain said, in a press release, it believes the previous planner Ben Gilpin was 'side-lined' in favour of Mr Kenneford, a suggestion which the council rejects. It is understood that Mr Gilpin asked to be taken off the project.
Sue Oppenheimer, chairman of Glosvain, said: "This is not normal practice, we believe that the officers have been side-lined and it seems to us that the purpose is to push through these plans."
Alan Potter, from BPP Consulting, said: "We are approaching this with a completely open mind and our role is to support the county council in achieving the right decision, whatever that might be.
"We look at the evidence and we advise the county council but at the end of the day it is up to the politicians to make a decision."
Duncan Jordan, the council's chief operating officer, said: "They are a highly professional organisation and I am confident that they will be able to look at this application completely independently."
Rising landfill costs mean Gloucestershire County Council wants to send residual waste to a new energy-from-waste incinerator
It will cost £500 million and will be run for 25 years by Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) at Javelin Park
A contract has been signed but planning permission is still being sought
More than 92 per cent of the county’s residual waste will be diverted from landfill, which is said to reduce carbon emissions and greenhouse gases
Anti-incinerator campaigners fear an adverse health impact from the incinerator’s emissions, but UBB says it meets all safety standards