By Christine Thomas on behalf of the Say No to Consett Incinerator Campaign.
They did it! The people of Consett united and bravely fought against the prospect of an incinerator being dumped in the heart of their town. On the 7th September, in the chamber at County Hall, six residents represented our town and with dignity and integrity explained to the Planning Committee why we do not what or need an incinerator in the town of Consett.
The Build Up – The Protest
On the 6th September – a Monday at 2pm, there were over 200 people from the town at Hownsgill Park. People of all ages showed the Durham County Council Planning Committee how much they do not want such a monstrosity in their beautiful town. Consett has truly been a phoenix out of the ashes of the steelworks – it is a fabulous place to live. This incinerator would have robbed our community of one of its greatest assets, our environment. This kind of heavy industry would have been a particularly cruel fate for the town after the years of pollution we have already endured; and in the year of the Climate Conference where we are supposed the be working together to improve our environment.
In the 1840s it was a necessity to live near where you worked, and the town of Consett evolved based on this principle. We now know that living near such pollution has terrible detrimental effects on health. Many of us have witnessed the early deaths of members of our families as a direct consequence of the pollution they had to endure. Industry like incineration has no place at the heart of Consett – it no longer belongs there. Therefore, we would like to thank the Durham County Council Planners for highlighting that: ‘Although the development is outside of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the proposal, due to the scale, form and massing, would cause unacceptable harm to its special qualities.’ We also agree with the DCC planners when they state, ‘The appearance of the proposed development does not conserve or enhance the special qualities of the landscape within the adjacent Area of Higher Landscape Value.’ Consett is a beautiful place to live. Why destroy the beauty of the place and the surrounding area by dumping this monstrosity there? Who would want a 50-metre chimney blotting our beautiful landscape? We are extremely grateful to Durham County Council Planners and the councillors on the committee for recognising the validity of our concerns.
Our Objections had a Huge Impact
There were 9 letters of support and over 3,800 objections – a tremendous effort for a town of only 25,000 residents. Where Councillors Haney, Rooney and Sterling all spoke passionately against the Incinerator, councillor Alex Watson – the ONLY councillor in Consett who supports it, is still insisting that this is a good idea for the town. Interestingly, Councillor Watson made so many incorrect statements in his own speech in the chamber, that the Planning Officer made a point of correcting him at the end of the meeting. Yet he is still saying in the local press, that it is the campaign that is misinformed. Wouldn’t it be more beneficial for Councillor Watson to use this time more productively and reflect on his own solitary stance in support of an incinerator in the town that he claims to represent?
Nothing Good to Say
The Applicant, Mark Short was allocated 18 minutes – the same as the residents- to speak on behalf of his Proposed Development. His consultant spoke for a few minutes, but when it came to the crunch, he refused to speak. His silence speaks volumes.
At the end of the meeting, the councillors all spoke in praise of our campaign and they all unanimously backed the residents. They agreed that an incinerator has no place in the heart of our town. One councillor commented that ‘Consett has suffered enough’. We agree!
Where next for the campaign?
Our fight is not totally over. We are waiting to hear whether the Applicant will appeal. Therefore, we will be continuing our campaign. We will be ready if we need to continue to fight for our town.
A Sense of Pride
Everyone involved in our campaign should feel extremely proud of themselves. We have proved how strong and vibrant the community of Consett truly is. There is a whole wealth of talent in Consett – we have artists, filmmakers, photographers- all young, talented people who have chosen to stay. We need to harness this talent in preparation for bidding for County of Culture in 2025. In addition, we have COP 26 coming up in Glasgow. Due to this campaign, people from Consett can show how hard they have fought to protect their climate. Our community now recognises that Incineration SHOULD be a last resort in the waste management, and it has no place in our local economy. We are going to work together to take Consett to the very top of the hierarchy in waste management and aim to make it the greenest town in England.