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: [email protected]
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...
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 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... Read more
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.
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... Read more
Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Jan-Feb 2020 number 124
Click on the picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report
Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Jan-Feb 2020 number 124 Click on the picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report Read more
Sharon Hodgson, Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West and Shadow Minister for Public Health, is supporting a callout for the Second World War generation
In order to mark the 75th anniversaries of VE and VJ Day, on the 8th May and 15th August respectively, veterans of the Second World War, both military and civilian, are being asked to register to be part of the nation’s commemorations.
Veterans can be of British, Commonwealth or Allied origin and all costs for their attendance will be met by The Royal British Legion and its partners.
‘I’m delighted to be supporting the callout for these important anniversaries.
‘I take great pride in the fact that members of my own family served in the Armed Forces, including my father in the Royal Navy, Uncle in the Army and cousin in the Royal Marines.
‘It is so important that we recognise the sacrifice and dedication of the Armed Forces community, the British and Commonwealth veterans, the Allies that fought alongside us and the civilian servicemen and women involved in the two World Wars and subsequent conflicts.’
Further information can be found here: https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/remembrance/remembrance-events
Registration closes for VE Day veterans on 17 February and for VJ Day veterans on 31 March.
Sharon Hodgson, Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West and Shadow Minister for Public Health, is supporting a callout for the Second World War generation In order to mark...
The below information has been provided by UKWIN (UK Without Incineration Network) ahead of Sharon's Westminster Hall debate on waste incineration facilities on Tuesday 11th February.
- https://ukwin.org.uk/oppose-incineration/ - UKWIN's arguments against incineration
- https://ukwin.org.uk/facts/ - Recent incineration-related statistics, including how in Wales 74.5% of residual C&I waste was potentially recyclable (and in many areas across the UK more than half of what is in the residual municipal waste stream is recyclable), indicating we need to be investing in education and better recycling services rather than yet more incineration capacity
- https://ukwin.org.uk/quotes/ - Quotes about incineration, including from EFRACOM, the Government and the National Infrastructure Commission
- https://ukwin.org.uk/2020/01/30/mps-use-westminster-hall-debate-to-raise-concerns-about-incineration/ - UKWIN's account of what was said at the Westminster Hall debate on commercial & industrial waste on 28th January 2020
As before, you should be able to watch the debates live via https://parliamentlive.tv/ and UKWIN will post an account of the debate once the official transcript has been released.
You can read Sharon's work on opposing the gasification plant at Hillthorn Park here.
Constituents are invited to join Sharon on Saturday 8th February at The Hopespring Centre, NE37 3BD, between 10:30-12:30, to discuss the planning application. More details are available here.
The below information has been provided by UKWIN (UK Without Incineration Network) ahead of Sharon's Westminster Hall debate on waste incineration facilities on Tuesday 11th February. - https://ukwin.org.uk/oppose-incineration/ - UKWIN's arguments against... Read more
Sharon Hodgson, Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West and Shadow Minister for Public Health, is set to hold the first of a series of public meetings that will take place in every area of the constituency.
These meetings will be open for all constituents to attend and focus on local issues in the area in which they take place. The first meeting will take place at The Hopespring Centre (Formerly the Top Club) Manor Road, Washington, NE37 3BD on Saturday the 8th of February at 10.30am – 12.30pm and will focus on the planning application for a proposed gasification plant at Hillthorn Park, in Washington.
‘’I was delighted to be re-elected as the Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West, and I am proud of my record in standing up for all of my constituents.
‘’Whether it’s campaigning against the closure of Urgent Care Centres, or against the proposed Gasification plant in Washington – I will always do everything in my power to make their voices heard.”
Sharon’s constituents will be able to find details of upcoming meetings on her website, which will all be available as and when organised.
Notes to editors:
· All of Sharon’s public meetings will be open to all constituents.
Constituents will need to RSVP in advance of the meeting by emailing: [email protected]
· If constituents have issues that they would like a specific future meeting to focus on, then they can make suggestions by contacting Sharon’s office on: [email protected]
Sharon Hodgson, Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West and Shadow Minister for Public Health, is set to hold the first of a series of public meetings that will...
Sharon Hodgson MP has pledged her support for this year’s Great British Spring Clean, run by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy.
The campaign, which runs from March 20th to April 13th, will see up to 600,000 people taking action to clean up streets, parks and beaches across the country.
The Great British Spring Clean, run by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, brings together individuals, community organisations, businesses and councils to show they love where they live and in 2019 more than half a million #LitterHeroes collected more than 900,000 bags of rubbish.
Keep Britain Tidy Chief Executive Allison Ogden-Newton OBE said: “The overwhelming response to last year’s Great British Spring Clean showed that there are many hundreds of thousands of people out there who love where they live and are prepared to take action to make it better for themselves, their families and their communities.
“Litter is an issue that affects every corner of the country and, regardless of politics, the Great British Spring Clean is a campaign everyone can get behind. It is fantastic to have the support of Sharon to help us reach our target of getting 600,000 people out, taking action to clean up every corner of the country.”
Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West, Sharon Hodgson MP, said: “We all have a responsibility to look after our surroundings and natural environment. Keep Britain Tidy’s campaign is a great opportunity for everyone in our local community to play a part in doing this, whether they are joining a local litter picking event with great local organisations such as Keep Washington Tidy and Washington Clean and Green, or simply doing their bit to pick up litter whilst walking to school or work of a morning”.
To find out more about the Great British Spring Clean visit www.keepbritaintidy.org.
Sharon Hodgson MP has pledged her support for this year’s Great British Spring Clean, run by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy. The campaign, which runs from March 20th to April... Read more
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.
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 the full debate... Read more
Sharon Hodgson MP supports RSPCA to improve animal welfare among youngsters in Washington and Sunderland West
Sharon Hodgson MP attended the RSPCA’s drop-in in the House of Commons and met with Chief Executive Chris Sherwood to hear about its Generation Kind initiative, which helps teach compassion to new generations and work to protect animals in Washington and Sunderland West.
Research by the RSPCA revealed that nearly a quarter of school children aged 10-18 have witnessed animal cruelty and neglect on social media. Generation Kind, the charity’s biggest ever education and prevention programme, was developed to help address this.
Chief Executive, Chris Sherwood, said: “It’s great that Sharon attended our drop-in event to find out how we help animals in their constituency.
“Our frontline officers see some really horrific suffering and our research revealed that children as young as 10 have seen cruelty and attacks in social media videos and posts which is worrying.
“We are working hard to create a generation of children who treat animals with kindness, compassion and respect through Generation Kind - a series of projects working with youngsters at risk of offending, animal care sessions for children in care and also talks and competitions for primary and secondary school children designed to make them think about animal welfare.”
The RSPCA has been protecting animals since its foundation in 1824. To this day, they are increasing their work to prevent cruelty occurring in the first place and to educate the next generation of animal lovers.
Sharon Hodgson attended the RSPCA’s drop-in in the House of Commons to hear more about the charity’s work.
Sharon said: “I’m proud to support the RSPCA and the work that they do to protect animal welfare in our constituency. It was fantastic to hear about their work and to thank them on behalf of the animal lovers in our area for all that they do.
“However, I am saddened that young children are being exposed to horrific incidents of animal suffering online, in ways previous generations have simply not experienced. We all have a duty to raise the next generation to be kind and compassionate to animals and I will continue to work closely with the RSPCA to help improve standards of animal welfare in Washington and Sunderland West and across the UK.”
More details about the RSPCA Generation Kind campaign can be found here: https://www.rspca.org.uk/whatwedo/education
Sharon Hodgson MP supports RSPCA to improve animal welfare among youngsters in Washington and Sunderland West Sharon Hodgson MP attended the RSPCA’s drop-in in the House of Commons and met...