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Burning Issues for
Kent's Royalty


Royal St. George's at Sandwich is staging the Open Championship in 2003. Secretary, Gerald Watts, has voiced concern that the fall out from the proposed waste incinerator at Richborough would affect the character, not only of Royal St. George's but of Princes and Royal Cinque Ports Golf Clubs. Fall out from the plant would undoubtedly affect the character of the land and eventually lead to a serious threat of flooding.

For many years, Astra Fireworks used to build and test fireworks between Sandwich and Ramsgate in Kent, near the towers of the power station. Playing any of the five adjoining golf courses therefore one often had a grandstand pyrotechnic display. When Astra Fireworks closed Kent County Council produced a county plan for a designated site for waste disposal, which included the Astra Fireworks site but extends for an area of 60 acres.

None of this was very remarkable and attracted little or no public interest or concern until the power station, under the ownership of Powergen burnt orimulsion. The emissions caused problems for the local inhabitants and a local farmer in particular whose crops were ruined and felt strongly enough to take Powergen to court. The case was settled at the eleventh hour and although the terms of that settlement remain secret it is clear that Powergen paid substantial damages and costs in settling the action. The public records of the case make it clear that self regulation is a myth and doesnít work. Thus, pollution had begun to raise its ugly head in this historic corner of Kent renowned for its fertile and agriculturally valuable soil.

As the landfill site close to Richborough Power Station was approaching full utilisation, other ways and means of waste disposal had to be found. At this point, SITA made a planning application to the Kent County Council for the building of a waste disposal incinerator on the land of the old Astra Fireworks site. Alarm bells began to ring. The local councils, first of all Sandwich and now Dover District were unanimous in their objection to the scheme and through the weight of public opinion the KCC have been forced to hold various public meetings at which individuals and organised bodies have been able to voice their objections to the planning application for waste incineration. The planning application is due to be heard on 24th July 2001.

At a public meeting held in Sandwich on Thursday 5th July, the Chairman of the KCC planning committee and officers of the KCC outlined details of the planning application and listened to objections from a packed audience of more than 200 people. No local resident was in favour and were clearly horrified at being told of the capacity and size of the development.

The World Health Organisation is quoted as saying "In terms of dioxins released into the environment, solid waste incinerators are the worst culprits due to incomplete combustion". In addition to the fears voiced by residents from as far afield as Thanet
and Dover, a petition of more than 700 signatures was presented to the Chairman of the KCC planning committee by a young schoolgirl who spoke on behalf of all the children in the Sandwich district saying that it was about time that those in authority took active steps to protect the environment instead of finding ways to destroy it.

On a newsnight interview on 3rd July, Jeremy Paxman, interviewing Michael Meacher said " The Tories and the Liberal Democrats are calling for a moratorium on the building of incinerators. Are you going to accept that?" In response, Mr Meacher said "My view is that we have, of course to meet the EU directive which is a reduction in landfill to no more than 35% of 1995 levels, that is a huge shift away from landfill. The second is the maximum increase in recycling, re-use and recovery. If we can do those two things without building a single incinerator, no-one will be more pleased than me".

Quite apart from the release of deadly dioxins into the atmosphere, and remember that the SITA application is to burn 150,000 tons of waste per annum, English Nature confirm that there will be a serious impact on the links land that runs from the mouth of the Stour just South of Ramsgate and Deal town centre.

The whole of this area is designated by English Nature as a site of special scientific interest and the area around Princes and The Royal St Georges Golf Club is now designated as an area of special scientific conservation.

It is the quoted view of English Nature that pollution from these waste disposal incinerators include substances that are used as common fertilisers. They are emitted in sufficient quantities to increase crop growth by a factor of  2-3% minimum. This figure is quoted in the proposal put forward by SITA, it may not seem significant, but both English Nature and the Kent Wildlife Trust feel that this level is high enough to be a problem for the Sand Dunes. The Dunes are nutrient poor and all the wildlife on the dunes has adapted to that environment. If the pollutants fall on the dunes and they surely will, this will lead to a fertilisation of the dunes - over nutrification, is the buzz word. This process of over nutrification will lead to other more invasive plants obtaining a foot hold. These with the daily fertiliser application from the SITA chimney will out grow the current dune flora and eventually they will produce a dense scrub. This is likely to change the vegetation growing on the dunes to such a level that the dunes themselves may become unstable. This could in theory lead to the loss of protection provided by the Dunes opening wide areas to risk of flooding. 

In the light of this information English Nature consider the nature of the golf courses and indeed the land adjoining them will change. Existing rare plants may disappear, and the habitat as we know it will totally change, and they have objected to the application.

Fortunately, quite apart from the planning approval by KCC, SITA if successful will have to apply to the Environment Agency for a license to operate the plant and in particular as an area undoubtedly to be affected by the operation of this plant, is designated as an area of special scientific conservation. It is controlled by legislation known as the Habitat Directive, operated from Brussels.

SITA have said they will appeal each and every refusal of their application to operate this plant and say they will be supported by the government. Let us hope this government means what is says and protects our environment. Waste incineration is banned in the USA. Letís do so in the UK.

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