A DEVELOPER could be dealt a blow after experts recommended that a planning bid to increase the height of a chimney at a proposed incinerator is turned down.

Planning officers at Essex County Council have made the recommendation for the application for the Rivenhall Incinerator, based on fears over the impact of the height of the stack on the surrounding countryside.

They also claim there is a lack of evidence showing a need in the county for an incinerator the size of what is proposed, and fear the plans will harm nearby Woodhouse Farm – a listed building.

Gent Fairhead and Indaver, the groups behind the incinerator plans, submitted the application to change the height of the stack to 58 metres after the Environment Agency rejected a permit for the 35-metre stack because it did not meet Government technology guidance.

The plans for a 58-metre chimney received approval from the Environment Agency, but it appears planning permission for the taller stack is set to be rejected by the county council.

However, the developer still hopes to change the conditions of the 58-metre stack permit approved by the EA to 35 metres.

Nick Unsworth, who has been spearheading the campaign against the proposals, said: “Obviously we’re delighted. A lot of this is down to us and the hard work we and the residents have been doing.

“For example, the questioning of there even being a need for the incinerator is based on our evidence.

“But there’s still work to do because this is only a recommendation.

“There is also the permit application for the 35-metre stack, but it’s important to point out that it has already been refused previously on the grounds of dispersion.”

Witham MP Priti Patel said: “Thousands of people are opposed to this application and the fact that the council now question the overall need for the development proves that we have been right to oppose the site for so long.

“The decision still needs to be made by the committee and I will be making strong representations to them to object.

“There is also an environmental permit application with the Environment Agency for a version of the stack which does have planning permission, so despite this welcome news the campaign to get this incinerator stopped continues.”

County councillors will have the final say at a meeting at County Hall later today (April 26).

A spokesman for Gent Fairhead and Indaver claimed the decision was being made “prematurely”.

He said: “We have undertaken public engagement and have responded to requests from the public to undertake further studies. The results of these studies will not be available until May.

“Therefore, we are surprised that a recommendation has been made prior to the publication of these completed studies.

“Secondly, the Environment Agency is currently in the process of determining the application for a lower stack.

“Although these are separate and distinct processes, allowing further time before deciding the planning application would also allow this process to conclude.”