An inspector has closed a public inquiry into a controversial "incinerator" plan, telling residents he understood their feelings.

Town planner Stephen Normington closed the nine-day inquiry into an "energy from waste facility" proposed for former steel works land at the Hownsgill Industrial Park in Consett.

Durham County Council refused the Hownsgill Energy Centre plan last September and Project Genesis appealed against the decision.

The council, and numerous objectors to the scheme, say it will cause harm to the landscape and heritage but the developer disputes this and says any harm will be far outweighed by the benefits of the plan.

Read more: Objectors to incinerator plan say 'still a very firm no'

Mr Normington was appointed by the government to hold the inquiry into a matter of "substantial regional or national controversy".

He said he would make a report and recommendation to the Secretary of State, who will make the final decision.

He said: "The Secretary of State will consider my report and recommendation in coming to his view or her view. I don't know who it will be.

The Northern Echo: Campaigner Christine Thomas with objectors to the energy from waste facility plan for Hownsgill Industrial Park gather at County Hall in Durham. Picture: Gareth Lightfoot.Campaigner Christine Thomas with objectors to the energy from waste facility plan for Hownsgill Industrial Park gather at County Hall in Durham. Picture: Gareth Lightfoot.

"The Secretary of State is entitled to have a contrary view and may disagree with my recommendation.

"The eventual decision of whether the appeal should be allowed or dismissed rests entirely with the Secretary of State and not myself."

Read more: 'Unmistakable utilitarian waste centre would harm landscape'

On when the decision would be made, he said: "I don't know.

"We are told to be as vague as possible.

"My target, although that might change but I doubt it, is to try and get this into the government office by the end of December.

"Thereafter, I've no idea. There's usually something like a 13-week period that it takes to look at, but it can be extended at their discretion.

"I genuinely do not know, and wll not know, the outcome.

Read more: Inquiry told Consett waste plan benefits 'far outweigh' harm

"The Secretary of State often goes against the recommendation of the inspector. It's not a given that what I write, the Secretary of State follows. It's far from that.

"Usually in an inquiry... there will be a disappointed party.

"We're all in the same boat that we're not so sure about the outcome. All I can do is deal with what I've heard over the last two weeks in planning terms and apply my judgment to that.

"Thank you for your patience. You've been patient listeners. It has been a hard couple of weeks."

Read more: Consett incinerator scheme 'could help alleviate local fuel poverty'

The inspector added: "I do get the strength of the community feeling. I get why you feel like you do.

"I'm from a mining background. I'm from a pit village. I still live in a pit village. I worked 10 years down the pit. I'm the only inspector ever to work down the pit.

"The anguish you felt when the steel works closed, I've been part of it so I know what you went through because I went through it.

"When you have to reinvent yourself and communities have to reinvent themselves, when it looks hopeless... we have to move on.

Read more: Crowds of objectors protest against proposed energy centre

"So I understand absolutely what you're feeling because I've been there.

"It's not nice when the lights are turned off literally and you think, 'Right, what can I do now then? Thanks very much.'

"Suddenly there's no control. Everything a community had goes overnight.

"So I get it. Been there, got the T-shirt, literally got the scars, and they're physical ones at that, but that's another story.

"The inquiry's now closed. Home."

Read next:

Incinerator inquiry: 'Consett will not be a dumping ground'

Consett incinerator row: Richard Holden hits back at plans

County Durham incinerator told it will be 'barely noticeable'

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