£144m recycling plant gets council green light

An artist's impression of the incinerator which will be built at Millerhill.
An artist's impression of the incinerator which will be built at Millerhill.
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A GIANT incinerator capable of powering up to 30,000 homes has been given planning permission.

The £144 million waste recycling and heat and power plant, to be run by Spanish-based firm FCC Medio Ambiente, is set to be constructed on the former railway marshalling yards at Millerhill.

The new plant will treat and provide energy from waste collected from Edinburgh and Midlothian that currently goes directly to landfill.

Now that planning permission has been unanimously granted by Midlothian Council, the 25-year contract – said to be worth £475m – will see up to 135,000 tonnes of mixed waste processed annually to produce electricity for the National Grid.

It will also produce energy suitable for a district heating scheme, with less than five per cent of all waste going to landfill in line with Scottish Government targets.

Councillor Lesley Hinds, environment leader at the city council, said: “This decision takes us a step closer to our goal of achieving the highest possible public participation in recycling while having dedicated, competitively priced facilities that will use all the remaining waste that cannot be readily recovered as a valuable resource.”

However, Councillor Chas Booth, from the Scottish Greens, said the plant would prove a waste of money and would discourage recycling.

He said: “That money would be much better invested in council services instead.

“The way to tackle Edinburgh’s waste problem is to improve our focus on waste reduction, reuse schemes and improved recycling, not to send waste to be burnt in an incinerator.

“And I’m particularly concerned that this new incinerator may undermine efforts to improve recycling and waste reduction rates in the city.”

Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, shared Cllr Booth’s concerns.

He added: “This giant incinerator will do very little to encourage Edinburgh and Midlothian councils to increase recycling or reduce the levels of waste they create.

“Deals like these could mean Edinburgh and Midlothian councils are contractually obliged to keep producing mountains of waste for the next 25 years.

“This is a bad deal for the councils and a bad deal for the environment.”

But Councillor Jim Bryant, cabinet member for economic development at Midlothian Council, said: “This decision is of equal benefit to both partner councils as it represents the chance to turn a derelict, brownfield site into a valuable energy production centre.

“A district heating network could bring economic benefits to the many exciting developments that are transforming the Shawfair area and beyond, as well as attracting other innovative projects and employment opportunities.”