A Large Incinerator on the Edge of the Cotswolds

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.

Haresfield Beacon
Haresfield Beacon on the Cotswold Way

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.

Painswick, less than 5 miles from the incinerator

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

Resources – Articles and Information

Resources – Pro Incinerator

Published by

Pauline Kenny

Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen are US expats living in Dorset. We moved to the UK in 2010. Read about our move. If you would like to talk about travel, please join us on the Slow Europe Travel Forums.

4 thoughts on “A Large Incinerator on the Edge of the Cotswolds”

  1. i just came across your blog as i am trying to mitre corners on my knitted apron, don’t laugh, its quite edgy! I live in Albuquerque and it seems to me, the more things change etc.
    I wonder whose pocket(s) that incinerator $$ has visited? So cynical and yet so old!
    Ah the Cotswolds, you are lucky so keep looking for that spot!
    Do you visit the Wool Week and the others??
    enjoy and knit

    1. How nice to hear from someone in Albuquerque! We lived in Santa Fe for 20 years.

      I have not been to Wool Week yet but the Cotswolds is a good place for knitting – you need warm sweaters in this weather!

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