LEADER of East Sussex County Council Peter Jones described the incinerator as an elegant building which fitted in well with the landscape at the controversial facility’s official opening this week.
The comments were met with disbelief from the 20 plus protesters who gathered outside to speak out against Veolia’s proposals to increase lorry deliveries of waste on public and bank holidays.
Veolia Environmental Services, which built the incinerator, was keen to point out the benefits of the facility, which included job creation, recycling metal and producing bottom ash for use in road building and creating enough energy to power 25,000 homes.
South Heighton resident Jane Miller said: “He’s got a vivid imagination if he thinks that fits in with the landscape.
“You’re at the foot of the South Downs National Park and what do you see? A massive silver slug.”
Newhaven MP Norman Baker was true to his word as he boycotted the official opening on Wednesday July 4, saying he had “no wish to attend this poisonous event.”
Outside the gates protesters jeered as people left the opening and carried a banner saying Save Our Bank Holidays.
They said it was the wrong place to put the building, citing the incinerator’s location on the edge of the South Downs National Park.
Cllr Jones said: “Virtually nothing leaves the ERF [Energy from Waste Facility] as a waste.
“Ferrous metals are extracted by magnets and sold on as scrap metal and the incinerator bottom ash is used in road construction.
“We have nearly doubled our recycling rates since joining the integrated waste contract with Veolia and Brighton and Hove and we are fulfilling our pledge that there will be no new landfill or land raise in East Sussex for municipal waste.”
Geoff Knight, a parish councillor for South Heighton Parish Council, said: “The facility was built against the wishes of local people and still remains an object of real anger in the community.
“The building is an oversized blot on the lower Ouse Valley landscape which has drastically reduced the quality of life of those living in the area.”
The incinerator burns rubbish generated by people living in East Sussex and Brighton & Hove.
Veolia said the facility represented a £160m capital investment in the area and the various orders which were placed locally during the construction phase totalled more than £10m.
It stressed 500 temporary jobs were created during the construction phase.
A total of 40 people are now employed permanently on the site and 70 per cent of them live locally.
Veolia said the incinerator meant rubbish did not have to go to landfill and was saving the taxpayer more than £2.5m per annum in waste disposal costs.
It explained the facility operated under highly controlled conditions and converted waste left over after recycling into electricity for the National Grid.
The facility will provide enough electricity to power 25,000 homes with the opportunity to provide heat for nearby users.
Emissions are monitored constantly and the Environment Agency has stringent requirements for the operation of the plant.
l For a full report on protest action and pictures inside the facility
– See to page 16