Sharon has received a response from Luke Hall MP, Minister for Local Government and Homelessness at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government following her request for the planning application for a gasification plant in Hillthorn Park to be recovered by the Secretary of State. This request has been rejected by the Minister.
You can read the letter by clicking on the image above
The planning appeal process for the gasification plant is currently adjourned until June.
Sharon continues to oppose the planning application.
On Wednesday 26th February, Sharon received a response from the Government to the petition she presented on 21st January about the gasification plant at Hillthorn Park.
You can read Sharon's speech and petition here >
You can read the Government response below:
Observations from Minister for Housing (Christopher Pincher):
The application referred to is now the subject of a planning appeal to the Secretary of State. The appeal inquiry opened on 18th February 2020 and it was attended by approximately 250 people. Before any evidence was heard, the main parties submitted an application to the Inspector to adjourn the inquiry to allow time for confidential commercial negotiations to take place the outcome of which was expected to be the withdrawal of the appeal. The request was endorsed by all objectors and by the MP who was present. The Inspector found the application represented exceptional circumstances and agreed to the request. The inquiry will resume on 18th June 2020 if the negotiations falter and the appeal is not withdrawn before then.
The Planning Inspectorate has received a request from Sharon Hodgson MP that the appeal be recovered by the Secretary of State on the grounds that it conflicts with national policies on important matters and raises significant questions regarding the interpretation of those policies for RDF-based gasification plants. The Secretary of State will consider and respond to this request as soon as possible.
Whilst the Government recognises the opposition to the planning application/appeal, it would not be appropriate to comment further on the eventual decision as to do so could prejudice the Inspector’s, or Secretary of State’s (if the appeal were to be recovered), consideration of the appeal prior to having heard and then considered all the evidence, both for and against the proposal.
You can read Sharon's work on this issue here >
The Planning Inspector ruled today (18th February 2020) at the Stadium of Light, that the appeal inquiry for a gasification plant to be built in Hillthorn Park has been adjourned until June.
Sharon Hodgson MP, who opposes the building of a gasification plant, said at the appeal inquiry:
"This is great news for my constituents who do not want this gasification plant built.
"Over the last three years, constituents have contacted me over concerns about public health, climate change, road congestion and the impact on the local landscape.
"That is why I was pleased to support the calls for an adjournment as this could lead to our ultimate goal: no gasification plant being built at Hillthorn Park. However, any deal that is made must be transparent and put in the public domain for scrutiny.
"This would not have happened today without the community spirit and determination from residents, campaigners and Councillors. The little people have stood up to the big guys and won. Thank you to everyone who has been involved in the campaign to oppose the building of a gasification plant in Washington."
You can read Sharon's work on this issue here > Sharon Hodgson MP - Rolton Kilbride, Washington planning appeal
The appeal for a planning application for a gasification plant to be built at Hillthorn Park, Washington begins on Tuesday 18th February at 10am at the Stadium of Light, Montgomery Suite. It will continue for 8 days, with an evening meeting on Monday 24th February.
Sharon opposes the planning application and will be speaking at the appeal meeting on Tuesday 18th February to set out the concerns of her constituents.
We need to show the Planning Inspector that the people of Washington and Sunderland West do not want this gasification plant.
Crowds will therefore be gathering from 9:30am on Tuesday 18th February at the main car park (Red Car Park) at the Stadium of Light to rally against the planning application.
If you are able to come and show your opposition, please do so. The more people the better.
You can read Sharon’s work on this issue here.
You can read Sharon's latest Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo website
A planning application for a waste gasification plant to be built at Hillthorn Park in Washington has been ongoing for almost three years.
Local residents, campaigners, Cross-Party Councillors and I oppose the building of this plant and have been relentless in our campaigning against the planning application.
Last July, the application was rejected by local Councillors on the Planning and Highways Committee. But our journey did not stop there.
The applicants, Rolton Kilbride, have appealed that decision which will now be heard by the Planning Inspectorate in an 8-day inquiry starting next week, on Tuesday 18th February at the Stadium of Light.
Campaigners and I will be at the appeal hearing, to show our intense opposition to the planning application.
Last week, I held a public meeting in Washington to speak to residents about the application and listen to their concerns.
Over 100 people attended and shared their worries with me including public health issues, climate change challenges, the impact on our local landscape and house prices.
I have raised these issues several times in Parliament, most recently this week in a Westminster Hall debate and directly to the Prime Minister during Prime Minister’s Question Time.
In my 15 years as an MP, no issue has galvanised so many people in opposition to an issue like this; approximately 10,800 people have signed petitions opposing the gasification plant and I have been contacted by hundreds of constituents about it.
What this campaign has shown me is that there is power in our people working together.
I do not know what the Planning Inspector will decide following the appeal hearing; they are not elected or political and as an MP I do not have any further influence over them than anyone else.
But what I do know is that when we all come together united in one mission, we can succeed in building a people-powered campaign that demonstrates the community spirit and determination of our local area.
We are united in opposing this proposed gasification plant and I will continue to do all that I can to represent my constituents on this issue.
I will be holding a public meeting throughout my constituency each month covering various issues. For more information, please visit my website: http://www.sharonhodgson.org/tags/public_meeting or contact my office: Sharon.firstname.lastname@example.org
On Wednesday 12th February, at Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs), Sharon Hodgson asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson a question about the proposed gasification plant to be built at Hillthorn Park.
You can watch the PMQ
On Tuesday 11th February, Sharon secured a Westminster Hall debate on Waste Incinerator Facilities and raised her concerns about the planning application for a gasification plant to be built in Hillthorn Park.
You can watch the debate here >
You can read the debate here >
You can read Sharon's speech below:
Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab)
I beg to move,
That this House has considered waste incineration facilities.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. Here we are again, talking about what for some of us in the Chamber seems to be our favourite subject lately. We have had similar debates, including one held just last month—I spoke in it, and other hon. Members present attended—but I wanted a much longer debate, to give everyone who wants to speak the opportunity to do so. The issue is particularly relevant for me due to a planning application for a waste incineration gasification facility in my constituency at Hillthorn Park—the appeal process against it is due to start a week today.
Nick Thomas-Symonds (Torfaen) (Lab)
Will my hon. Friend give way?
Yes—wow, that was quick!
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way, and I congratulate her on securing this debate. She mentioned the appeal process. Constituents who contacted me about this debate are concerned that the voice of the local community is heard throughout the planning process. Does she agree that that is essential for large projects such as this?
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. I will come on to the 10,800 of my constituents who have been in touch with me. They signed a petition, and they certainly want their voice to be heard.
I wholeheartedly oppose this planning application, and I will come to the reasons why shortly. Before I do, I thank hon. Members present who will be expressing their opposition—I assume it will all be opposition—to waste incineration facilities.
On Saturday, I held a public meeting about my local planning application, to give constituents an opportunity to express their opinions, as my hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds) said. It was well attended, despite the short notice—I arranged it only the week before—and people came from across the community and the political spectrum, with Labour, Lib Dem and Green councillors and activists in attendance. As this debate shows, this is a cross-party issue, and I am pleased to see colleagues from all parts of the House.
As I said at the public meeting on Saturday, which was attended by more than 100 people, no one in that room was in favour of a gasification plant being built in our area. In my 15 years of being an MP, no other issue has galvanised so many people and brought them together against something in the way this issue has. It really is a community movement, with campaign groups such as No Monster Incinerator in Washington or Washington and Wearside Against Gasification leading the way to oppose the application by informing local residents and getting signatures on petitions. As I mentioned, 10,800 people have so far signed a petition in opposition, which I presented to Parliament last month.
Alun Cairns (Vale of Glamorgan) (Con)
I thank the hon. Lady for organising that meeting and the debate today. To pick up on what she said, does she recognise the expertise in highly technical matters that has been built up in communities by the groups she mentioned? They scrutinise legislation and regulations closely. In my constituency, the Docks Incinerator Action Group has drilled down into the detail and caused real problems to the proposers of a development.
That is an important point. I will come on to someone without whom I and most of the campaigners would not have been able to launch such a strong and informed appeal against this decision, making a world of difference.
I am so proud to represent and work with people who show such determination and community spirit. Like them, I oppose the planning application and will be speaking at the appeal process, which begins next week. I also thank the United Kingdom Without Incineration Network and Shlomo Dowen, in particular, for his work and support on this campaign. We could not have got this far without his expertise—a point the right hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Alun Cairns) touched on.
As the shadow Minister for public health, it would be remiss of me not to point out the public health implications of gasification and incineration, which need to be taken into account. In the planning application in my constituency, we still do not know what technology will be used, even though the application has reached this stage. We know that the technology has never been used in the UK before, although we are told that it has been used in Japan, a country with very different safety standards and regulations from the UK.
The lack of information and transparency from the planning applicant does little to allay the fears of my constituents and me. On Saturday, constituents told me that young families were moving away from the area because of the fear of carcinogenics, diseases and birth defects. My constituents should not have to live in fear of being test subjects for something such as that.
Stephen Flynn (Aberdeen South) (SNP)
I thank the hon. Lady for securing this debate. In my constituency, an incinerator is due to be built near our local primary school and a number of local houses in Torry. Does she share my concerns about the potential public health impact on residents and the children at that school?
I absolutely do. In our previous debate, I spoke about how nine primary schools in my constituency, as well as many thousands of homes, are within a one-mile radius of this development. That is unacceptable, so I agree with the hon. Gentleman. Also, a technology that has never been used in the UK before is not welcome in Washington and Sunderland Wes—or, probably, in any of our constituencies.
Surely a technology that is expected to release millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide during the anticipated lifetime of the gasification facility should not be backed by the Government. Indeed, that is a direct contradiction of the Government’s policies on climate change and waste processing. For every one tonne of plastic incinerated, approximately two tonnes of CO2 are released into the atmosphere, therefore contributing to climate change, whereas, perversely, one tonne of plastic in landfill releases zero CO2, so incineration cannot be and is not the solution we seek—it has to be more recycling.
Bambos Charalambous (Enfield, Southgate) (Lab)
My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech on an important issue. She just mentioned recycling. Does she agree that much more needs to be done to encourage more recycling so that we do not have, or reduce, the need to rely on incineration or landfill?
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. More recycling has to be the solution; it will never be landfill, and certainly not incineration. How does the Minister expect to meet the Government’s climate target of being carbon neutral by 2050 if planning applications for waste incineration continue to go ahead?
A recent study by Waste and Resources Action Programme Cymru found that 75% of commercial and industrial waste sent to incineration or landfill in Wales is recyclable. With recycling rates flatlining, will the Government consider introducing a tax on incineration, as promised in 2018, to address climate harm and encourage recycling rates? There is a precedent, as that is what the landfill tax aimed to do. Surely it is counterproductive to have a landfill tax to deter burying plastic, which causes no CO2, but not to have an incineration tax for incinerating plastic, which causes masses of CO2.
Another issue that neighbouring MPs and constituents might not yet have fully realised exists is that, due to the prevailing winds, the people to the east of our proposed site, in Sunderland and South Shields, may also find themselves harmed by the plant. I hope that this debate will help to alert a bigger audience across the wider area to the impending threat that is being discussed just a few miles from them.
Sunderland City Council is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2030—a target that will be totally scuppered if the planning application for Hillthorn Park is approved. The problem is the emissions from not just the plant but the 110 HGVs that will work around the clock to ship waste to it.
Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) (Con)
The hon. Lady is making a powerful case. Does she agree that the issue is not just the incinerators but all the traffic that comes with them to transport the waste? That adds to pressure on local roads, which is concerning because of CO2 emissions.
Absolutely. Residents raised that point on Saturday—especially those living around the proposed site, who will be bothered by the congestion, extra fumes and mess from those heavy goods vehicles. The HGVs are supposed to be strapped and covered, but every day stuff flies off the lorries that go to the other waste recycling plants in my constituency.
In 2017 I attended the planning exhibition for this plant. I was told that living next to it would be 40 times safer than living next to a major road. I find that dubious, to say the least, but surely, in time, with greater numbers of greener vehicles, that would not be such a defence, even if it was true. We should be going forwards, not backwards, so that argument cannot be valid. Local roads in Washington are already congested, with the added problem of HGVs parking up alongside roads and drivers leaving their litter—perhaps I will have a full debate on that issue another day. That shows how problematic some nearby businesses already are to the people of Washington and Sunderland West—they are not all the best of neighbours.
A constituent told me on Saturday that he could not have his windows open or sit in the garden on some days because the noise and pollution from nearby roads was overbearing—that is without the extra 110 HGVs per day. Constituents have raised similar issues over the years about the smell and vermin from nearby waste processing sites such as Teal Farm. The last thing we need is another contributor to the problem.
My constituents and I know that the Environment Agency is a little toothless in tackling the problems that waste processing sites cause. We are rightly concerned that any issues arising from this gasification plant will bring just more of the same. If the planning application is approved, my constituents fear that their houses will suddenly become worthless; because of all the concerns I have mentioned, no one would want to buy a house next door to a plant such as this.
It is not known yet who will use the energy generated from the gasification plant. It was thought that Nissan, which is almost next door to the site, would use it—a pipe from the plant to Nissan was visible on the plans when I saw them—but, as far as I am aware, no such agreement has been made. Sunderland City Council is keen to work with Nissan to negotiate a safer and affordable means of generating energy, so there really is no need for this plant at all with regard to Nissan. I should make it clear that the Sunderland City Council planning team rejected the plant and is making a strong defence against it. We are all united against it, from politicians to the council, residents and everyone else.
The chair of the Teal Farm Residents Association wrote to me recently. He said:
“Over the years, the environment and landscape of this region has suffered greatly and we are just starting to move on from the effects of all of that not just environmentally but also the health and well-being of the community.
The region now boasts some old and new landmarks which we are justly proud of, from Penshaw monument to the Spire bridge.
We don’t want an ecological eyesore to become the new ‘landmark’ which tells visitors they’ve reached Sunderland and we don’t want the health and welfare of residents to be jeopardised by having this proposal inflicted upon them. This is a proposal which is unwanted and unnecessary.”
It is exactly that: unwanted and unnecessary.
There are no benefits to be reaped from this planning application. There would not even be huge numbers of jobs created, as only 35 new full-time jobs are being offered. But the jobs pale in comparison to the public health concerns and climate change challenges. I hope I have made it clear, even in these brief comments, that the gasification plant at Hillthorn Park in Washington must be opposed, and I will continue to do just that.
During a Westminster Hall debate on Tuesday 28th January 2020, Sharon spoke about the planning application for a gasification plant in Hillthorn Park, Washington.
You can read Sharon's speech below:
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hosie. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty), both for securing this important debate and for his excellent speech to set the scene.
In 2017, a planning application for a gasification plant to be built in Hillthorn Park in Washington was submitted to Sunderland City Council. Since then, approximately 10,800 people have signed petitions opposing the plant—I presented one of them to the House last week.
Many of my constituents have contacted me about the planning application, and it came up a lot on the doorstep during the general election, so I am left in no doubt about how my constituents feel. Never in my 15 years as an MP have I seen an issue galvanise my constituents in such a way. They are totally against it. I share their concerns and join them in opposing the application. Although the planning application was submitted almost three years ago, we still do not know what type of gasification technology will be used if it is approved.
I am told that some of the options have never been used in the UK or in Europe. The technology has, however, been used in Japan, which has very different safety measures from the UK. Does the Minister think it right or fair for our constituents to be used as guinea pigs to test a new technology? Would she be happy if this took place in her constituency? I am sure that her constituents would not. My constituents are concerned about the short-term and long-term health and safety of those living around the plant.
The proposed site is as close as 100 meters to homes, and there are nine schools within a one-mile radius. Those communities will bear the brunt of increased traffic and the associated pollution, and they will be most at risk should anything go wrong with the plant, bearing in mind that the technology is totally untested in this country. The plant would not even be a great future employer—only 35 full-time equivalent jobs would be created. Basically, I can see no positives at all in the building of the gasification plant in my constituency—only many negatives.
The planning application is in direct contradiction to the Government’s own policies on climate change and waste processing, and the proposed plant could be expected to release millions of tonnes of CO2 —my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth mentioned that risk—within its anticipated lifetime. Undoubtedly, that will have a negative impact on our environment and on climate change. What assessment have the Government made of the impact that waste incineration could have on climate change?
I am happy to report that the planning application for this gasification plant was rejected in July last year by the local planning and highways committee. However, the application is up for appeal by the applicant, Rolton Kilbride, and the appeal will start on 18 February. I am sure that Members present will have no doubt that, based on my concerns—some of which I have raised today and many others I have not had time to mention—I plan to make strong representations to the planning inspectorate and to ask it to reject the application.
I have already written to the planning inspectorate and the national planning casework unit to request that, in the event that the application is approved, the Secretary of State recovers the appeal. If that request is approved, it will then give the Secretary of State the final say on the application, which I will lobby her strongly to reject. For now, it is a waiting game for me and my constituents, but I remain absolutely committed in my opposition to the plant. The health and the lives of my constituents should not be gambled with.
I will continue to work ceaselessly with constituents, campaigners and local councillors of every party—they all oppose the plans—to oppose the building of this plant. It must not be allowed to happen, and the united voices of all local people must be heard and heeded.
On Friday 19th July, Sharon spoke at the Planning and Highways Committee meeting regarding the proposed application for a gasification plant to be built at Hillthorn Farm. During the meeting, Councillors voted to reject the planning application.
You can read Sharon's speech below
** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY **
I’m the MP for Washington and Sunderland West and the proposed site for this application is in my constituency.
I am here today to represent the views of my constituents, as they have been expressed to me over the last two years.
In my 14 years as an MP no other issue has galvanised my constituents to campaign against something than what is before you today.
Whilst the vast majority of complaints have understandably come from Washington residents, I don’t actually want this plant built anywhere near any of my constituents. In Washington or Sunderland.
I would like to begin by expressing my disappointment that this meeting is being held in Sunderland, rather than in Washington where the proposed site is, and in the middle of the afternoon as that has limited who could attend due to work or care commitments – as well as the distance to travel.
My constituents in Washington are very proud of its heritage and industry.
However, communities feel they are becoming the victim of Washington’s excellence, with industries – such as the waste processing sites cluster in Teal Farm – being akin to the nightmare neighbour next door.
Many of my constituents have told me they are worried that Washington risks becoming the dumping ground of the whole region and beyond!
If this gasification plant is a regional or national necessity, why can’t it just be built well away from homes and schools?
As one constituent wrote to me, and I quote:
“The people of Washington do not want this monstrosity built near to where we live and work.”
As I mentioned, some communities in Washington are already suffering as a result of nearby industries.
Building a waste gasification plant in Washington may attract more of the same problems that residents living near existing industries face such as: vermin, flies and odours.
The applicant has failed to confirm what waste will be used in the feedstock, or how it will be treated.
This is particularly relevant in light of the experience of the residents in Derby, who have had two years of foul smells from the Sinfin gasification plant, despite all the reassurances given by the operator at the planning application stage .
In terms of this application, the Environment Agency are unsatisfied about the technical detail with respect to the odour management system.
Surely the Committee cannot approve an application that fails to satisfy the Environment Agency, and the concerns of my constituents, who will have to live alongside it?
Waste will be coming from across the Northern region, in 110 HGVs a day, which will have significant adverse impacts on both transport congestion as well as recycling rates in the region.
The pollution that would be emitted from the stack and from the transport to and from the facility would also have serious adverse impacts well beyond the immediate locality.
We therefore do not know the short or long-term health and environmental impacts that an approved plant in Washington would have on the local and wider population.
Last year, I held a meeting with constituents and the applicant managing company, Rolton Kilbride, to discuss concerns about the proposed plant’s technology.
They were unable to confirm what technology or feedstock would be used and a year on we are still none the wiser. This is deeply alarming.
What they did say though is that the technology would be similar to one used in Japan; but never one previously used in Europe.
The people of Washington should not be used as guinea pigs for technology used for the first time in Europe.
My constituents are concerned about several matters not just how close the proposed site is to thousands of homes and ten schools all within a mile radius, but also the effects on air quality, public health and impact on house prices.
There is also the very real danger it could pose to any metro extension to Washington.
Therefore in conclusion, knowing the anxiety of constituents and the lack of information from the applicant, could you really approve this application with a clear conscience?
I called the application in to the Secretary of State in August last year, but that should not be used as a safety net for the Council.
Please don’t gamble with the health and lives of my constituents – they deserve their elected representatives to have their best interests at heart at all times and this is too important a decision to get wrong.
The proposed gasification plant at Hillthorn Farm in Washington is at the next stage of the planning process. On 19th July 2019 at 4:30pm, the application will be referred to the Planning and Highways Committee at The Stadium of Light.
I share the concerns of my constituents about this plant and have applied to speak at the Committee hearing. If you are one of my constituents and would like to share your concerns with me please email me at email@example.com
To view the letter in full and find out how to apply to speak at the meeting, please click the image above