An energy from waste plan would cause cumulative harm and worsen views of a "predominantly rural and attractive landscape", a council told a public inquiry.

Durham County Council refused the plan for an energy from waste facility on Hownsgill Industrial Park in Consett last September.

Project Genesis has appealed against this decision, leading to a nine-day public inquiry before a government-appointed inspector.

The proposed Hownsgill Energy Centre, with a 50m-high chimney stack, would process up to 60,000 tonnes per year of commercial and industrial waste.

Read more: Consett incinerator objectors tell inquiry it would be a 'blight' on landscape

John Barrett, representing the council, made his closing statement to the inquiry on Friday (August 19), saying the plans would be "transformative" and would have significant adverse effects on an "attractive and mature" restored landscape.

He said it would break the skyline with "three unusually tall structures of industrial character" which would be permanent and "visually dominant", with only lower parts screened by trees.

The Northern Echo: Children's posters at Hownsgill Industrial Park. Picture Gareth Lightfoot.Children's posters at Hownsgill Industrial Park. Picture Gareth Lightfoot.

He added: "The scale and location of the development is such that the water tower, main building and stack protrude above the skyline.

"The stack would be a noticeable detracting element, considering the wooded backdrop in which it would sit.

"Any plume would draw attention to the development and exacerbate the impact causing harm to visual amenity."

Read more: Consett incinerator row - Richard Holden hits back at plans

He said the scheme would harm the nearby North Pennines area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB), "one of the most remote and unspoilt places in England", as well as an area of high landscape value and heritage assets, the grade II listed High Knitsley farmhouse and barn.

"It is an unmistakable utilitarian industrial development that would detract from the scenic beauty of the AONB," said Mr Barrett.

"It has no design merit and none is claimed for it."

He said the proposal would divert waste away from landfill but the "need for the facility is overstated" and provide few jobs - "undoubtedly a profoundly low employment density".

Read more: Incinerator inquiry - 'Consett will not be a dumping ground'

He said County Durham already imported more waste than it exported and made a "significant contribution" to waste management in the North-east, with an existing facility and two more granted planning permission on Teesside.

He went on: "The development is not 'clean energy' as the energy is produced by burning a non-renewable fuel. Furthermore, there are limitations on the technology. It is essentially a steam turbine generator.

The Northern Echo: Mark Short, managing director of Project Genesis, at Hownsgill Industrial Park, Consett. Picture Gareth Lightfoot.Mark Short, managing director of Project Genesis, at Hownsgill Industrial Park, Consett. Picture Gareth Lightfoot.

"It is... not unreasonable to assume that the primary source of waste would be outside of County Durham. Therefore the assertion that the development would manage locally sourced waste is difficult to maintain and impossible to control.

"The development may have a higher carbon factor than grid supplied electricity.

"The waste material that is processed... could come from anywhere."

Read more: County Durham incinerator told it will be 'barely noticeable'

He said of a proposed £120,000-a-year fund to alleviate fuel poverty if the scheme went ahead: "Fuel poverty is unrelated to and has no association with the EfW proposal.

"In addition, it offends the principle that planning permissions should not be bought or sold."

Other benefits put forward for the scheme included more than £40m investment, a proposed "district heat network", a community energy company, an electric vehicle charging facility and carbon capture.

Read more: Residents speak against 'bad neighbour' incinerator plan

Mr Barrett said there were some potential and "reasonable and proportionate" benefits, but several could not be given significant weight, lacked information or infrastructure, were "no more than aspirational" or "completely inchoate and uncertain".

He concluded: "The council acknowledges there are benefits that attract weight.

"But in the overall planning balance there are powerful and weighty considerations in respect of landscape and heritage harm that outweigh – by a considerable margin – the benefits that can properly regarded as material."

Read next:

Crowds of objectors protest against proposed energy centre

Consett incinerator scheme 'could help alleviate local fuel poverty'

Inquiry told Consett waste plan benefits 'far outweigh' harm

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