The Cotswolds is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) designated by the British government as an area that is to be conserved. Most of the Cotswolds is in Gloucestershire, under the control of the Gloucestershire County Council. That council decided to build a large incinerator, to process up to 190,000 tonnes of municipal, commercial and industrial waste per year, on the western edge of the Cotswolds, four miles from where I live, two miles from The Cotswold Way, the national trail that runs along the Cotswold Escarpment.
People come from all over the world to walk the Cotswold Way. When they arrive at Haresfield Beacon, near the mid-point of the 102 mile walk, they will soon look down on a huge incinerator pouring potentially toxic emissions from its smokestack. What will our visitors think of our Cotswolds AONB then? Perhaps that we don’t care as much about it as we say we do.
In 2011 the Gloucestershire County Council signed a contract with Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) to build the incinerator. It will replace the current landfill that is near Gloucester. In 2013 the Gloucestershire County Council Planning Department denied permission for the incinerator to be built. UBB appealed to the Secretary of State and a public hearing was held. In January 2015 the Secretary of State decided in favor of the appeal and the incinerator project was on again. Stroud District Council has asked for a judicial review, which has stopped the building temporarily, but it looks like this project will go ahead.
The incinerator was proposed because of EU regulations limiting the use of landfills, but there are better ways than landfills or incinerators to deal with our trash. For a start, we could do more recycling. In Gloucestershire over 50% of the household garbage that we put into trash bags could be recycled. Many European countries which embraced incinerators originally are now moving away from them. Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT), which sorts the trash, extracting the recyclable, compostable and reusable material, is a more environmentally friendly alternative.
The pro-incinerator group says they are safe, they produce less CO2 than landfills and they produce energy as a byproduct. The anti-incinerator group says they produce potentially toxic emissions, encourage people to not recycle, produce more CO2 than other alternatives and are a blight on the landscape.
What this means to me
Personally, I am heartbroken about this. I have been living in this area for five years and in Painswick for over three years. I love this area. Steve and I had made the decision to stay in England, in this area, and were planning to buy a house here. We have looked at several other places in England, but this corner of the Cotswolds was the place for us. No longer.
Now it is back to square one on finding our place to live. I do not want to live within 10 miles of an incinerator. Our shortlist is: North Cotswolds, West Dorset or South Devon. We will be exploring these areas more this year.
We knew when we left Santa Fe with its sunshine and clean air (no nearby industry, no pesticide drift from agriculture) that we would have to compromise on air quality, especially in England with its dense population and busy roads. We thought living in an AONB would give us some protection and that the wind from the west, coming off the ocean and passing over Wales, would give us good air, but we were wrong.
I love the air here, standing on Haresfield Beacon looking out at the River Severn and feeling the wind on my face. Or walking through the woods breathing in the oxygen from the trees and plants. But soon, when I breathe deeply when walking here, I will be thinking of small particles of plastics and industrial wastes coming from our county incinerator.
Today I sent this letter to our local monthly magazine, The Painswick Beacon:
Work could start soon on the Javelin Park Incinerator, located beside the M5 near Haresfield, less than five miles west of Painswick. It will process up to 190,000 tonnes of municipal, commercial and industrial waste per year producing potentially toxic emissions and CO2 which contributes to climate change.
I am most concerned about the emissions from the 230 foot (70 meter) stack which has the greatest impact within a five mile radius. A government report on the safety of incinerator emissions was due last year but has been delayed. Other European countries are moving away from incineration because of the health and environmental concerns.
Over half of household black bag rubbish could be recycled, but instead this will be burnt. Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT), which sorts the trash, extracting the recyclable, compostable and reusable material, is a more environmentally friendly alternative.
There is information on the GlosVAIN website at www.glosvain.info.
I will be positive
There are positives for me in this. I know more about incinerators and dealing with household trash now! I realized that living four miles from a motorway is not ideal – you have the pollution from the cars and industrial things are built along motorways because of the good access. We get to try out another area, maybe live near the sea. If we moved to Dorset we would be near the ferries to France, so could get there more easily.
When we moved to the Cotswolds in May 2010, we thought we might be here for a year, but we hoped we could have five years. We are almost there. Five years of living in this beautiful countryside, walking the best footpaths in the world. Five fantastic years. We are very lucky. And the next place we go might be just as good, even better. Fingers crossed!!
Resources – Anti Incinerator Groups
- GlosVAIN – Gloucester Vale Against Incineration
- Gloucestershire Against Incinerators
- United Kingdom Without Incineration Network
- Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives
- Zero Waste Europe
Resources – Articles and Information
- Map of Potential, Existing and Prevented Incinerators from United Kingdom Without Incineration Network.
- Stop the South London Incinerator – Why is burning rubbish dangerous?
- Stroud News and Journal – Javelin Park Investigation – Waste fumes linked to premature deaths, by Chris Warne, 4 January 2012
- Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)
Resources – Pro Incinerator
- Richard Graham, MP for Gloucester – Waste to Energy Plant at Javelin Park, 19 November 2012 – speaks about the reasons why the incinerator is the best option
- Air Quality News – Bonfire night ‘more polluting’ than waste incinerators, November 5, 2012. Government claims that bonfire night celebrations are worse for air quality than waste incinerators.