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NEWS FLASH! - Protest at official opening of Chineham burner

Click here to view other images of the action.
Local and anti-incineration activists from all over the UK,
gather at the gates to the burner site in Chineham.
Photo: C. Derrick (Copyright 2003, BBAC) 

View photographs of this action, in the BBAC photographic gallery.

BBAC issue press statement

Dateline: Friday 26th September, 2003.

Despite a series of attempts by the Hampshire Waste Services to keep the official opening of the Chineham burner by the Princess Royal under wraps, local residents backed up by anti-burner activists from across the UK lined the entrance to the burner site to highlight their growing health concerns and to protest against the operators' ongoing indifference to public opinion.

In the 2 weeks leading up to the opening, the BBAC co-ordinated a letter-writing campaign, directed towards the Buckingham Palace press office and urging the Princess Royal to reconsider attending the official opening, pointing out the numerous health concerns relating to municipal waste incineration (especially the issues of childhood heath, since the Princess is the President of the Save The Children Fund). 

While the response from Buckingham Palace was mildly sympathetic, the text of the response was an almost verbatim version of the Operator's stance. One protester who had read the response commented that: "The only thing missing from the Buckingham Palace statement was a 'Copyright 2003, Onyx. All Rights Reserved' clause on the bottom of the page.". 

Ironically, the SELCHP burner facility in London, previously opened by Prince Charles, has since been responsible for almost 900 documented emission violations in just four years. Like the Chineham facility, SELCHP was touted as a "state-of-the-art" facility and the BBAC are disappointed to find that history appears to be repeating itself as Buckingham Palace does not appear to have undertaken it's own research into this controversial issue, preferring instead to regurgitate the industry dogma and government propaganda.

Since the Chineham burner went online earlier this year, there have been a series of air quality incidents ranging from acrid smells, to the visible release of dark clouds of smoke and fumes pouring from the chimney stack.  Even on the morning of the official opening, eye-witnesses have reported seeing clouds of black smoke rising from the burner stack, less than an hour before HRH Princess Anne was due to arrive. Not surprisingly, visible emissions had ceased by the time the Princess Royal arrived on site.

In most cases, HWS have simply pointed the finger at a number of other potential causes and refused to even consider that their so-called "state-of-the-art" facility is responsible. In one of the most recent fiascos, the operator admitted that at least one recent emission breach was due to the failure of a single 12 sensor and despite the fact that there is a camera apparently fitted to the chimney stack, they failed to notice that the stack was releasing large clouds of smoke and noxious gases for over 20 minutes.  Insult was then added to injury, when the Environment Agency, the government body supposedly responsible for monitoring burner facilities and penalising operators for such emissions, once again failed to take any form of tangible action against Hampshire Waste Services.

Hampshire Waste Services, fearful of widespread opposition were taking no chances for the official opening, initially banning the press from attending the opening (this backfired as local newspapers, the Basingstoke Gazette and the Basingstoke Observer reacted angrily to this infringement on the Publics' right-to-know and HWS was forced to relent at the 11th hour). Despite widespread concerns by local residents, no representatives from the Chineham Parish Council, were permitted to attend the opening.

A large police presence did not deter protesters and the protest remained friendly and good-natured.
Extra police officers were drafted into guard duty (no doubt at the taxpayers expense) and barriers were erected on both sides of the site entrance.  Curiously, the usual regular convoy of waste trucks which normally travel to and from the burner site every 15-20 minutes came to a halt before the protest began and did not resume until approximately half an hour after the departure of Princess Anne and her entourage.

By 9:30am, scores of protesters had lined the entrance, waving placards with a range of anti-burner / pro-recycle messages and the barriers were awash with colourful banners. Most remained at the gates throughout the morning and despite their anger at the shameful actions of the Operator, relations between the police officers present at the gates and the protesters remained friendly and good-natured throughout the protest.

Above: A small contingent of the police presence on site.
Photo: C.Derrick (Copyright 2003, BBAC.)

 

To ensure that Princess Anne and her entourage had as little opportunity as possible to interact with the protesters, HWS - in a move so cowardly that it sets a new low even by their standards - arranged for the Princess to arrive on site by helicopter, thus preventing the need for the Princess to pass protesters at the gate upon her arrival at the burner site and ensuring she had no opportunity to speak or interact with local residents.   Shortly before midday however, the Princess Royal and her cavalcade swept past protesters and headed down the A33 on their way to her next appointment with barely a sideways glance. Over the next hour other invitees who had been transported to the site by coach also left, many of them looking embarrassed and uncomfortable as they passed protesters.

Having made their views clear, most protesters then began to collect their belongings and return to the initial rendezvous site on Old Reading Road. During this time, eye-witnesses reported the presence of a so-far unidentified individual, sitting in an Onyx van, photographing those congregating at the rendezvous site and noting the registration numbers of all vehicles parked there.  As more and more protesters returned to the rendezvous point, the Onyx representative appeared to become nervous and sped away before he could be approached by protesters. 

 

Undeterred by the intimidation of Onyx, some protesters gathered on the Chineham over-bridge in a gesture of defiance and were rewarded with toots of support by cars and trucks travelling up and down the A33.

Making the point

Above: Activists and BBAC gather on the Chineham over-bridge.
Photo: C.Derrick (Copyright 2003, BBAC.)

The BBAC would like to thank all those who took part in the protest and who helped make the official opening of the Chineham burner a memorable event. We would also like to thank the many people who sent letters to Buckingham Palace, expressing their concerns and urging the Princess Royal not to attend the opening, as well as the many letters and e-mails of support that we have received from members of the public.

Lastly, we would also like to make a special thanks to Chris Derrick, who acted as our intrepid photographer throughout the day and who worked tirelessly to help ensure that the event was a success.

---oOo---

 

Groups represented at the Chineham Incinerator Official Opening Protest

Thank you all, for your effort and support!

 

We continue to campaign against the concept of large-scale incineration, in favour of more sustainable, cost-effective and cleaner alternatives to the whole issue of municipal waste disposal.

While the operator continues to put profits before people and the Hampshire county council and the Environment Agency continue to dismiss the legitimate concerns of the people they are supposed to represent, we will continue our efforts to embarrass them into accepting responsibility for these despicable, outdated and dangerous installations.

 

What the papers said

Press cuttings from the Basingstoke Gazette and the the Basingstoke Observer are available to view or download from the the Press Cuttings and section of this website.

 

 

Councillor for the Environment makes bizarre claim!

See Cllr Estlins statement to believe it (or not!)

In a bizarre and misinformed response to the press, Councillor Keith Estlin (Hampshire County Councillor for the Environment!) made the ridiculous claim that:

"The facility emits fewer pollutants in a year than a normal bonfire does in eight hours."

In response to this ludicrous statement, the BBAC would like to suggest that Councillor Estlin speak to noted waste consultant Alan Watson who had this to say about his comments:-

"The Chineham plant is authorised to emit 102 tpa of [Nitrogen Dioxides] NOx, 50 tpa of [Sulphur Dioxides] SO2 and greater than 5 tpa of Particulates - you must have truly awesome bonfires in Hampshire!"

Alan also drew our attention to a recent white paper* on Dioxins produced during bonfire night, which makes the following observation among others:

"It is not surprising that dioxins are generated on bonfire night - it provides an annual al fresco toxic waste disposal fest with tyres, paints, PCP coated wood, PVC coated materials, solvents and mixed household waste being burned along with the clean wood and probably a few thousand hedgehogs. The generation of dioxins provides a powerful argument for better control of the main precursor materials."

* Reference: "Dioxins in ambient air, bonfire night 1994, Chemosphere 34 (5-7) (1997)" pp. 1191-1201

 

And finally, in response to Cllr Estlins claim that "the protests will last about another six months and then they will find something else to protest about", we would point out to Cllr Estlin that we have opposed the county on this issue for well over four years; longer than a councillor who makes such appallingly glib and uninformed statements is likely to remain in office! 

 

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