A total of 235 new jobs have been promised after councillors approved an energy recovery facility which will burn waste, converting it into electricity.

Two hundred will come in the construction stage of the Teesside Green Energy Park Limited plant at Seal Sands, which is expected to take two years to build, and another 35 once the site is operational.

Environmentalists had opposed the potential £200m scheme and lodged several objections with Stockton Council during a public consultation.

At a meeting of its planning committee, one objector claimed he had been denied the opportunity to speak and, after the plans were passed unanimously, declared standing up: “That’s democracy for you!”, before walking out.

Councillor Barry Woodhouse said members had been met with a “fait accompli” because of so-called ‘extant’ planning permission that was already in place dating back to 2013 with work previously commencing on the site.

He queried an increase in capacity of the plant, due to be built off Seal Sands Road, near Billingham, and said he would prefer to see solar panels and a wind farm on the 3.7-hectare site in question “rather than an incinerator”.

The original consent proposed a capacity of 175,000 tonnes of waste annually with the company now requesting 240,000 tonnes.

Others, however, were content with the application, albeit with various aspects being queried.

Director Daryl Pope said in a statement issued to the Local Democracy Reporting Service the plant would have the capacity to generate enough electricity to power 70,000 homes.

He said: “We hope that most personnel supporting the construction and operation of the plant will be recruited from the local area.”

A pipeline to capture carbon emissions will run directly adjacent to the plant, although separate planning permission is required for this and a spokeswoman for the firm behind the plans conceded the timescale for the carbon capture element was not certain.

Mr Pope said it was hoped it could eventually be one of the first carbon-negative energy recovery facilities in the UK.

Teesside Green Energy Park is a member of the East Coast Cluster, a mix of projects entitled to bid for funding from the Government which aims to deliver carbon capture infrastructure along with storage sites in the North Sea to potentially remove 50% of the UK’s industrial CO2 emissions.

The proposed facility will operate 24/7 and 365 days a year with deliveries of fuel and non-recyclable process materials being imported and so-called bottom ash and pollution residues being exported from the site to an appropriately licensed containment facility elsewhere.

This will equate to 26 heavy goods vehicle movements per day.

The firm said the waste source would be “locally generated” and a contract to provide this had been signed, but details were “confidential” for commercial reasons.

The council, however, were said to be satisfied that it came from a genuinely local source.

An environmental permit from the Environment Agency will also be required to control any emissions.

A stack associated with the plant will be 85 metres high, according to a design and access statement submitted to the local authority.

Other elements include a fuel storage bunker and building; boiler hall steam turbine; control room; flue gas treatment facility; bottom ash bunker; air-cooled condensers and staff facilities and offices, along with 24 car parking spaces.

The statement said the design of the facility would be consistent with the industrial setting of the wider area and there would be no unacceptable landscape and visual effects as a result of the proposed development.

Non-recyclable waste will be delivered to the plant in either shredded, wrapped bundles, or sometimes pellets and act as ‘refuse derived fuel’.

It is then burned, releasing heat, which turns water into high-pressure steam in a boiler and then turns the blades of a turbine generator to produce electricity.

Supporters of such projects say the waste material would otherwise go into landfill, or potentially be exported abroad, and it is a more sustainable option.The Northern Echo: A site plan of the energy recovery facility due to be constructed off Seal Sands RoadA site plan of the energy recovery facility due to be constructed off Seal Sands Road (Image: MJCA)

But critics believe it is an inefficient process which releases pollutants into surrounding areas and there is already an overcapacity of incinerators.

Rowan McLaughlin, a Saltburn-based local Green Party co-ordinator and activist with the group Stop Incineration North East, has previously spoken out over a similar energy-from-waste plant set to be built at Teesworks, near Redcar.

It will burn up to 450,000 tonnes a year of domestic solid waste that can’t be recycled from one-and-a-half million households across the North-East and involves a consortium of local councils.

She said in her written objection: “This is also not needed due to overcapacity of incineration capability in the UK and inadvisable due to the potential impacts on human health.

“I do not want to live in the area of the bonfire of the North East, let alone the bonfire of Europe.”

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Another comment said: “The 24/7 burning of waste on a long term contract violates the declared climate emergency we are in.”

A planning officer’s report considered by the committee had recommended approval and summarised: “National and local policy documents and guidance have been reviewed and it is considered that the proposed development will assist in meeting the urgent need for renewable, sustainable, low carbon energy generation and obtaining value from waste that would otherwise be exported for use or landfilled. 

“All other matters have been reviewed and with the imposition of conditions it is not considered that the proposed development will have an adverse impact sufficient to warrant refusal of the application and it is recommended for approval.”