There is "no evidence" of companies not investing in an industrial estate because of fears over a proposed waste incinerator, an inquiry has heard.

Developer Fornax Environmental Solutions is appealing against the refusal of planning permission for a "high-temperature thermal treatment facility for clinical and hazardous wastes" at Merchant Park, Newton Aycliffe.

The firm called town planner Simon Greaves to give evidence at a public inquiry at Aycliffe Business Park on Thursday (June 30).

Read more: Newton Aycliffe incinerator plan rejected after stack of objections

Numerous residents have expressed their objections and concerns about the proposed plant, many about emissions, air quality and pollution.

But Durham County Council did not refuse planning permission last December on environmental grounds.

Mr Greaves said: "It's common ground with the county council... that there are no environmental health or amenity issues which suggest that this site isn't suitable.

"We have common ground with the council that there is a need for this facility.

"This is a treatment facility which is taking material which cannot otherwise be treated. The plant is making the best possible use of those materials."

Read more: Aycliffe incinerator inquiry - 'it's in the wrong place'

The council maintains the incinerator and perceptions about it could undermine job growth and investment, put off businesses from moving to the area and cause existing firms to move away.

Mr Tucker asked Mr Greaves whether the proposal would "compromise" the industrial use of the Merchant Park site.

He replied: "Categorically not in any way.

"It's the normal practice to have energy from waste facilities as a broad type located on industrial settings."

Mr Tucker asked about possible non-investment because of the proximity to the incinerator and perceived harm.

Mr Greaves replied: "I have heard no evidence to suggest that's borne out in the real world.

"There has to be some reasonable basis for those perceptual effects.

"There is no basis in evidence for them and therefore the weight that one should give to such perceptual concerns is either very low or none."

Read more: Objectors tell Aycliffe incinerator inquiry - 'it needs to be stopped'

He added: "A number of parties with clear interest in surrounding land have concluded that it's perfectly OK to continue developing that land or that future development that they have an interest in is compatible with our being there."

The inquiry heard that organisations developing nearby plots, including Darlington Borough Council, did not object to the proposals, with Hitachi now said to be "neutral" and landowner Merchant Anglo "fully supportive".

Mr Greaves said the plant, proposed for land vacant for more than 10 years, was "entirely compatible" with council policy.

"It is fully in compliance with the development plan and therefore should receive planning permission," he said.

"It is a high-quality building in a high-quality setting.

"One will not be able to distinguish it from any other high-quality industrial use. They want to make a good impression. They're seeking to create a best in class facility."

Read more: LIVE - Public enquiry opens for Newton Aycliffe incinerator appeal - updates

John Barrett, representing Durham County Council, said their case was a "cohort of potential industrial users would be dissuaded from locating to the site... saying 'this site is not for me'".

Mr Greaves said: "Our view is that the effect, if it exists at all, is of such small order that it is not significant."

Mr Barrett added investment, recruiting and keeping staff could also be affected, and operators on nearby sites had expressed genuine concerns.

Mr Greaves responded: "I would question the basis upon which the views were formed."

He said there had been no practical consequences and the impact of the plant was "not borne out evidentially".

The inquiry continues.


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