The following gives an overview of the global ‘One Health’ strategy to healthcare, health equality and wildlife conservation — how it developed and what it entails. It looks at the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership’s comprehensive “One Health” vision for Dorset, and it applies this health and conservation paradigm to a proposed industrial development in Dorset: the waste incinerator at Portland Port.

The vision of Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (DLEP) is that by the year 2030: “Dorset will be the UK lead for One Health” and will be “using a One Health approach as a basis to age well and live sensitively in the environment.” In the DLEP’s latest annual report this One Health ambition comes top in the group’s list of strategic priorities:

So what exactly is “One Health”? Over the past couple of decades, One Health has become a globally recognised, wide-ranging healthcare strategy. The basic idea behind it is that human healthcare shouldn’t be thought of as something separate from its wider context (social and environmental). The World Bank describes it as:

“the simple idea that human health and animal health are interdependent and bound to the health of the ecosystems in which they exist.”

Likewise, the DLEP characterizes One Health as:

“the health-based interrelation between humans, nature and the environment”.

The DLEP’s commitment to the One Health concept fits in with its wider environmental concerns:

“We want Dorset to become the One Health and aquaculture capital of the UK. To achieve this, we must act now to tackle climate change.”

The DLEP sees it as an approach to health and wellbeing in Dorset that capitalizes on “the importance and scale of the natural environment and key assets such as Poole Harbour and Portland Port” — one that “provides opportunities for more sustainable and sensitive economic development”. And it’s an approach that ties in with what Dorset LEP’s director, Lorna Carver, describes as:

“our priorities for supporting our rural economy and protecting and enhancing our high-quality natural environment.”

Background: One World, One Health

The “One Health” concept has its modern roots in the ‘One World, One Health’ symposium organized by the Wildlife Conservation Society in 2004, which addressed “the challenges of global health and biodiversity conservation”.

The report from the symposium urged civil leaders to “recognize that decisions regarding land and water use have real implications for health” and drew attention to “the critically needed biodiversity that supports the living infrastructure of our world” under pressure from such phenomena as “species loss”, “habitat degradation” and “pollution”.

A few years later, in 2008, the One Health Initiative developed a definition of ‘One Health’ which is still much quoted today:

One Health is the collaborative effort of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally, and globally — to attain optimal health for people, animals and our environment.

The One Health concept is founded upon “the realization that we are part of a larger ecological system—exquisitely and elaborately connected.” And it embraces: “wildlife promotion and protection”, “health of the environment and environmental preservation” and “support of biodiversity”.

➤ One Health and biodiversity

A key document for understanding the relationship between biodiversity and “One Health” strategies is the 2017 report ‘Guidance on Integrating Biodiversity Considerations into One Health Approaches’, drawn up by the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). In this paper, the CBD emphasized “the value of the ‘One Health’ approach to address the cross-cutting issue of biodiversity and human health”, where “biodiversity loss” can be a significant factor in worsening the global health burden:

“Biodiversity, and the complexity of our landscapes and seascapes, is integral to social and ecological resilience.”

This UN report recommends “raising awareness on the direct drivers of biodiversity loss and ill health” — these drivers include “habitat alteration” and “pollution”.

  • for more on One Health and pollution, see Appendix 1

It notes the socio-economic dimension to biodiversity loss, stating: “the impacts of environmental degradation, and biodiversity loss in particular, on health outcomes are most significant among vulnerable populations”. Typically, these vulnerable populations are politically the most voiceless:

“unequal distribution of health-damaging experiences is often the result of a combination of poor social policies and programmes, unfair economic arrangements, and power relationships.”

➤ One Health and socially inclusive policymaking

A 2016 University of Edinburgh paper, ‘One Health’, insists that if this healthcare paradigm is to succeed: “researchers and practitioners alike must engage with the political, social, and economic questions that are at the heart of One Health.”

The clearest expression of the social justice dimension to One Health is in 2017 ‘Dublin Charter for One Health’, passed by the InterAction Council of former world leaders. The Charter is “a statement of the values of social justice and fairness for all” and states:

“in exchange for the right to benefit from the earth’s bounty, we have an obligation at all levels society – personal, community, national, regional, global and planetary – to respect, care for and restore the earth and its natural resources.”

The Charter calls for “policy, legislative and regulatory changes” and “radical adjustments in the way we live, work, produce, consume, generate our energy, transport ourselves and design our cities.”

And this is a crucial point: One Health principles aren’t merely vague, insubstantial statements of abstract intent — they don’t just float abstractedly above the real world — they have to be applied in the arena of practical, on-the-ground policymaking. This is a point made in an important 2006 Defra study titled ‘Air Quality and Social Deprivation in the UK: an environmental inequalities analysis’, in which Defra urges policymakers to attend to this kind of health data:

“In the field of health policymaking, it is important that the impact of environmental quality on the health of communities is considered, particularly when undertaking initiatives to address health inequalities. Addressing environmental inequalities should be an important part of any strategy, and will involve close cooperation with professionals from other sectors e.g. planning, environmental health etc.”

The close cooperation between disciplines and attention to the wider socio-economic dimension of disease and well-being is all part of the One Health paradigm. As Professor Mike Thomas, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Central Lancashire, puts it:

“Health issues are often societal in nature – lifestyle, education, nutrition, environment all have a role to play” and the One Health strategy can help “alleviate these challenges and the health inequalities faced by people and communities”.

In other words, One Health is not just environmentally inclusive, it’s socially inclusive. As the CBD says:

“Social and economic determinants also have a significant influence on the dynamics between biodiversity changes and human health. Social inequities mean that the freedom to lead a flourishing life and to enjoy good health is unequally distributed between and within societies, reflecting multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.”

Tackling this kind of discrimination has long been a stated priority of policymaking in the UK. For example, back in 2005 the UK’s then Health Secretary said “reducing health inequalities is a central part of our common European value of a society based as much on social justice as on economic success”. This is quoted in the policy study ‘European strategies for tackling social inequities in health’ published by WHO Europe in 2006. According to this report “poverty is an important determinant of poor health in Europe”. It recommends a holistic approach to policymaking, saying:

“Equity in health strategies should… be integrated into strategies for economic growth”.

Doing so would avoid “the risk of discriminating against weaker, less productive groups”.

➤ Case study: HMP The Verne

The UK’s prison population would be an example of a “weaker, less productive” group that should not be discriminated against. According to a Covid-19 update from Public Health England (2020) “Prisons are a distinct social environment from that of the community, with people interacting in close proximity, high population vulnerability and unique pressures”.

One aspect of this vulnerability is a lower baseline of health. According to WHO Europe: “the health status of prisoners is generally lower than the rest of the population”. And a 2007 briefing paper by Penal Reform International states: “Prison populations typically comprise the most disadvantaged and marginalised sections of society who generally have a low health status.”

In early 2020, HMP The Verne on Portland underwent an unannounced inspection: the results of the inspection were generally good, but “healthcare provision was less positive”:

“It had taken too long for NHS commissioners to carry out a health needs assessment to reflect the needs of the population. As a result, the health services team was under-resourced and was unable to meet the needs of the population.”

When it came to healthcare “there were significant shortfalls in a number of areas, including mental health”. The inspectors found that “The oversight and systems to monitor treatment for patients with mental health problems were inadequate. Also, there were unacceptable delays in hospital appointments: “some patients waited too long for important appointments, with potentially serious implications for their health.”

It’s important to note: this was a pre-pandemic inspection — the Verne’s healthcare system was overstretched even before Covid-19 hit. And in terms of putting things right, the prison’s own Action Plan, published in June 2020, admits: “Actions against target dates are likely to be delayed due to COVID-19 disruptions to service delivery.”

So, there’s a prison with a struggling and inadequate healthcare system, packed with “disadvantaged and marginalised” members of society, and meanwhile there are plans to build a large waste incinerator just a short distance away:

The Ministry of Justice has commented on the incinerator proposal, saying:

The site for the proposed Energy Recovery Facility is approximately 600m northeast of HMP The Verne. Given the nature and proximity of the planned energy facility, the MoJ is naturally concerned about the potential effects on its staff and inmates. Specifically, the concerns relate to reduced air quality from the facility’s emissions and increased traffic.”

Richard Drax MP raised similar concerns in his objection to the incinerator, remarking that the facility’s “very tall chimney stack” would be “emitting emissions just below HMP The Verne” — and that if it is built “there is no doubt that the air quality immediately around the plant will be more polluted than would otherwise be the case”.

So what would be a One Health approach to this situation?

The One Health strategy has “a more inclusive voice for neglected human populations” — that’s according to the book ‘Integrated approaches to health: a handbook for the evaluation of OneHealth’ published in 2018 by the University of Zurich.

A successful One Health strategy, according to this handbook, would include “social protection” — with “policies to reduce poverty and vulnerability of disadvantaged population groups”. Any course of action should pay “particular attention to those groups that are more vulnerable and more likely to be harmed”, which includes “the economically deprived”.

The Government (in a 2019 ‘Response to the Health and Social Care Committee’s Inquiry into Prison Health’) defines prisoners as a “vulnerable population” and “recognises that there is a particular duty of care owed to prisoners by virtue of their detention”. It affirms that prisoners should be able “to enjoy their fundamental right to health”.

Where there are (as in HMP The Verne) “discriminatory barriers to health system access”, it means a failure to achieve “health equity”. The prison population is already disadvantaged in terms of health outcomes; building a waste incinerator 600m from a prison which is up on the hill just above the chimney stack, would mean increasing the likelihood of harm to a vulnerable, neglected group.

Just in terms of the nearby prison, the waste incinerator development is impossible to justify from a One Health perspective.

➤ Case study: Deprivation in Dorset

Dorset Council affirms that social and economic deprivation is “a key challenge to health and wellbeing” and that “Dorset’s economic strategy and vision recognises the links between economic prosperity and health and wellbeing”.

Dorset Council’s State of Dorset 2019 report states that “The Dorset Council areas of deprivation are largely located in the most urban areas — in particular the former borough of Weymouth & Portland”. And in a separate research document, ‘The Indices of Deprivation 2019 – a summary report for Dorset Council’, it’s noted that:

“There are eleven areas in Dorset Council that are within the top 20% most deprived nationally for multiple deprivation, up from ten in 2015.”

Ten of these eleven areas are within Weymouth & Portland. Three of the most seven most deprived areas in Dorset are in Melcombe Regis, including the most deprived area in the entire county: Melcombe Regis Town Centre.

The distribution of deprivation in the UK can be seen on an interactive map, with the most deprived areas coloured the darkest blue. As you can see, the most deprived areas in Dorset encircle the proposed incinerator site:

Looking now at health — Public Health Dorset has identified Melcombe Regis as one of the four areas in the region “that have merited specific community development efforts due to being both deprived and having poorer health outcomes than other communities.” It has singled out, as one of the health challenges of Weymouth & Portland, “poor-quality housing especially for people with long standing ill health”.

Shockingly, a 2017 report by Dorset Council notes that “almost half of children in Underhill ward live in poverty.” The Underhill area of Portland is its northern end, near the port. The draft Neighbourhood Plan for Portland 2017-2031 talks about the health and economic inequalities in this zone:

“It is sad to report that too many of the Island’s population experience social and/or economic deprivation, particularly in the Underhill area, with high unemployment levels, low levels of educational attainment, high levels of teenage pregnancies and poor health.”

Public Health Dorset has highlighted “inequality” as a key health risk, pointing out that “poverty and other inequalities” can conspire to increase “the burden of ill health on those communities least able to cope”. They note that:

“Risks to health and wellbeing are not evenly distributed across the population, but instead conspire to form patterns of inequality with people in poverty more likely to experience poor health, partly because of living in poorer environmental conditions.”

So what’s do be done about this? Dorset Council has made a clear commitment to “eliminate discrimination” and tackle social deprivation at the level of policymaking:

“Dorset Council recognises that there are a range of other groups/people that may face additional disadvantage and discrimination and we consider these when making decisions.”

These disadvantaged groups include “people on low incomes / in poverty”. But of course, not everyone in the area is socially disadvantaged, or struggling on a low income. There is a gigantic disparity of wealth between the business interests behind the proposed waste incinerator, who would profit enormously from its operation, and the people (and prisoners) who would have the incinerator operating on their doorstep, and be forced to bear the brunt of its emissions.

The Clinical Director for Weymouth and Portland Primary Care Network, Dr. Tanya Read, makes exactly this point in her letter of objection to the proposal:

“The proposed development is sited close to areas known to be among the 10% most deprived in England. Research demonstrates ongoing inequalities in exposure to air pollution, with deprived areas worst affected by high concentrations of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide. We are concerned that the development will have a negative impact both to the physical and mental health of our local population, exacerbating already known health inequalities”

  • for more on social deprivation and pollution, see Appendix 2

A double injustice

In 2016, the Royal College of Physicians brought out a report ‘Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution’ — according to which, one of the central principles of air pollution is: “The most vulnerable suffer the most harm”. Top of the list of populations which suffer the most from air pollution are people who “live in deprived areas”. And crucially:

“Deprivation has been identified as increasing susceptibility to PM [particulate matter] in a number of separate studies.”

In other words, it’s not simply that poorer populations are commonly more exposed to air pollution — they’re actually more vulnerable to the effects of it. It’s what the report terms “a double injustice”. Deprived populations (such as those which surround the proposed incinerator site) actually “experience greater harmful effects of air pollution” — not least because “poorer people have other health, social and environmental stressors, such as poor-quality housing, higher unemployment.”

The incinerator, if built at Portland Port, would be worsening the environmental stress on precisely those who can least tolerate it.

Disparity of wealth and opportunity

Portland Port, where the proposed waste incinerator would be situated, is a privately owned commercial port with “a dock estate of nearly 200 hectares”. In the year ending 31/12/19, Portland Port Ltd. made a net profit (after tax) of £2,489,924. Chair of the board of directors of Portland Port is Christopher Langham:

Christopher Langham is head of the Langham family — one of the wealthiest families in Dorset and the majority shareholder in the port. His younger brother Justin is also a director. According to company accounts for Portland Port Limited: “the company is a subsidiary of Langham Industries Limited”, which means:

“The ultimate parent company is Langham Industries Limited… The ultimate controlling party of Langham Industries Limited is the Langham family”.

The Langham family is well known as the owners of the Langham Wine Estate just outside Dorchester. Back in 2016, the South West Business Insider ‘Rich List’ estimated the wealth of the Langham family at £75 million. The family’s business interests operate through Langham Industries Ltd. (which owns a group of subsidiary companies), and through various other family trusts and holdings.

According to company accounts submitted to Companies House, Langham Industries Ltd. has (for the year ended 31/12/19):

  • net assets —— £87,883,259
  • revenue —— £31,185,916
  • net profit (after tax) —— £2,329,443

So the Langham family is doing pretty well. Certainly above average nationally in terms of deprivation. In fact, in another bit of good news, the Langham Wine Estate was recently crowned International Wine & Spirit Competition Sparkling Wine Producer of the Year 2020. Here is Justin Langham celebrating the win:

The company behind the incinerator proposal itself, Powerfuel Portland, is run by a London city lawyer, Steve McNab, and is part-owned (15%) by “Green Tower” — a Dutch-Japanese joint venture, backed by the giant Japanese financial conglomerate, Daiwa Securities Group. Headquartered in Tokyo, Daiwa has assets of around £200 billion and 16,000+ employees worldwide. According to the World Economic Forum: “the Daiwa Securities Group is one of the largest independent, full-service securities groups in Japan.”

The development would mean an estimated £100 million investment in Portland Port. According to the CEO of the Port, Bill Reeves, “The site is suitable for a power station development, which will safeguard the port’s business”. But at what cost? Boosting the income of one of Dorset’s richest families by dumping a waste incinerator in one of its poorest neighbourhoods.

This point is made by Richard Drax MP in his official objection to the proposal. He says:

“I think it’s pertinent to point out that Portland suffers from deprivation and poverty and residents often feel ‘dumped upon’.”

In short, such a course of action would discriminate against low income, disadvantaged populations, and fly in the face of all the core One Health values such as “health equality”. The unacceptable “health and well-being gap” in the region is addressed by ‘Our Dorset’, a partnership of local NHS and social care organisations, which states: “we must reduce the gap between the health of the poorest and richest.” Building a waste incinerator at Portland Port would be doing exactly the opposite.

➤ Local businesses against the burner

The DLEP’s mission is to support projects which will give “long-term economic benefit for all in Dorset”. The Port, the Langhams, Powerfuel and Daiwa would all benefit handsomely from the incinerator scheme; meanwhile many local businesses are up in arms against the proposal. The Coalition Against The Burner has signatories from around Dorset, ranging from diving centres to dairy farms. Art galleries to seed producers. In all, 140+ members — including some local trade bodies such as:

  • Weymouth & Portland Licensed Skippers Association
  • Weymouth Hoteliers Guesthouses & Leaseholders Association

They’re concerned about the effect of this conspicuous and polluting development on their business — on tourism, the green economy and food production. A lot of these businesses (particularly in the tourism and hospitality sector) are struggling to survive thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. The waste incinerator would be one more blow to their business prospects. It would be an economically exclusive project which would hardly be in line with DLEP’s commitment to “inclusive productivity” and “inclusive regional benefit”.

➤ DLEP — ‘better living for all

In developing its Local Industrial Strategy, the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (DLEP) has paid particular attention to areas of deprivation, aiming by 2030 to: “Reduce the number of areas in Dorset LEP region considered to be in the 20% most deprived”. Likewise, the DLEP’s Business Plan 2020/21 proposes:

“Targeting direct action in areas of deprivation, addressing underlying issues resulting in lower levels of prosperity, prioritising work with young people and their families to enhance aspiration and ambition”

When it comes to growing the local economy and boosting productivity in the region, the DLEP is crystal clear in its priority:

Back in 2014, in the ‘Transforming Dorset’ Strategic Economic Plan, the DLEP acknowledged that: “The most dominant issue resulting in inequality for people in Weymouth & Portland is economic deprivation.” This strategy document puts forward a economic strategy, in the case of Portland, of “Leveraging growth through tourism, natural history and heritage in an area of deprivation”.

Dorset as a whole has a “unique, world-class natural heritage” which it can leverage for economic growth — but the DLEP makes it clear, in its Local Industrial Strategy, that this leveraging should be done fairly:

“Natural capital is a common asset and should not be used by just a small section of society without a return on that investment back to the common resource.”

For the DLEP, economic growth should be underpinned by values of “collaboration and inclusion”. These values of fairness and social inclusion are expressed in some of DLEP’s key strategic aims:

  • Promoting ‘inclusive growth’
  • Pursuing models of ‘better living for all’

And these are values which are at the heart of DLEP’s commitment to One Health, which forms a major part of the group’s Local Industrial Strategy.

➤ DLEP and One Health

The DLEP’s One Health ambition is set out in detail in the Local Industrial Strategy document, which aims at “Positioning Dorset as the UK lead for One Health.” The DLEP takes a One Health approach to such challenges as “clean growth” and “loss of biodiversity”.

We’ve seen how vital biodiversity is to the concept of One Health, and the DLEP is keen to encourage coastal development which “delivers a net gain in biodiversity, alongside community inclusion and understanding.” In terms of planning policy, this means:

“taking a proactive approach to environmental and biodiversity ‘net gain’ in all future developments.”

It’s important to stress: One Health is not simply about enhancing wellbeing and protecting wildlife, it’s also a strategy for economic growth. As the World Bank says, by nurturing “the health of the ecosystems” around us, “a One Health approach is also good for the economy”.

The DLEP see One Health as a focus for encouraging growth in a wide range of healthcare, research and environmentally related sectors such as “energy science”, “green tourism” and “environmental technology”. In fact, healthcare comes at the top of the DLEP’s list of strategies for accelerating and evolving the region’s economy:

“1. Driving new industrial opportunities via a unique cluster of high growth sectors, including health and social care…”

These opportunities will be nurtured through the “Dorset Collaborative Cluster” — empowered by the “integration of techniques, technologies and talent”. Collaboration, as we’ve seen, is fundamental to the One Health concept, which was developed as a “a holistic, collaborative approach” to healthcare and environmental stewardship. So it’s no surprise to find One Health playing such a crucial part the proposed Dorset Collaborative Cluster:

The DLEP is seeking to “build a ‘one health’ consortium” in the region, and in September 2019 the group hosted a conference at Kingston Maurward College on the theme of One Health. Here’s the Dorset LEP director Lorna Carver opening the event (as captured by Professor Bill Keevil, a microbiologist from Southampton University):

➤ One Health and Portland Port

There are, as the DLEP points out, “a number of aspects to the nature and environmental elements of One Health”, which include: “innovation in waste management and pollution elimination”. Which begs the question: is this aspect of One Health compatible with building an enormous waste incinerator at Portland Port?

The DLEP’s ‘Dorset Horizon 2038 A Vision for Growth’ (2018) sets out a “clean growth agenda” for the region. The aim is “to achieve growth whilst improving quality of life and reducing emissions.” DLEP’s aim is economic growth with an “environmental positive impact”. This means backing policies that protect Dorset’s “outstanding natural environment”:

“We are committed to delivering economic growth which is not at the expense of, but enhances, our natural environment — Dorset’s natural capital will be a key consideration in all decision making.”

The location for the proposed incinerator at the Port is just a pebble toss from the Jurassic Coast — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — and is surrounded by extremely sensitive ecological sites (not least the Fleet lagoon, which is a highly protected body of water). The Fleet lagoon is one of Dorset’s most important Marine Protected Areas:

“’Chesil Beach and the Fleet Lagoon’ is recognised as an area of high conservation value through the many national and international designations it is afforded – SSSI, SPA, SAC, Ramsar and being the centre of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.”

According to the Dorset Wildlife Trust, “Chesil Beach and the Fleet Lagoon are internationally protected for their birdlife.” Rare birds, fragile marine and coastal ecosystems — a wealth of natural capital abutting the port. As Dorset Council points out:

“Parts of the port estate are within a special area of conservation (SAC) and designated as sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs)”

The UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity specifically urges lawmakers and planners to: “Guide the development of human activity/settlements” — such as industrial systems — “away from areas adjacent to highly biodiverse and sensitive ecosystems”.

Likewise, a 2017 study by the British conservation charity Plantlife — ‘We Need to Talk about Nitrogen’ — gives a list of urgent action points, which includes:

“Local action that reduces or intercepts emissions close to sensitive designated nature conservation sites”.

Rather than enhancing the region’s biodiversity, protecting its fragile ecosystems and reducing emissions, constructing a large waste incinerator at the port would be entirely at the expense of Dorset’s natural capital and Portland’s environmental heritage.

  • for more on pollution and biodiversity, see Appendix 3

➤ Renewable Energy and sustainable development

In the DLEP’s Dorset Rural Enterprise Priorities Paper (2016), enterprises are encouraged “to minimise their detrimental impact upon the environment” — by, for example, “utilising renewable energy”. The DLEP want to: “Encourage, facilitate and fund projects focusing on the use of renewable energy sources” such as “natural environmental and community energy projects”. Their aim, as set out in their Local Industrial Strategy, is to encourage:

“Micro-power (renewable) generation in ‘growth zones’ and consideration of renewable energy sources at scale on land and at sea.”

Building a power station at Portland Port is far from being “sustainable and sensitive economic development”. The DLEP’s vision for Dorset is that by 2030 it will be “utilising local renewable energy sources”, rather than shipping in rubbish from around the UK and abroad to fuel “a power station development”, as the waste incinerator is described by the Port’s CEO, Bill Reeves.

Indeed, the port has a rather more positive part to play in the DLEP’s One Health vision for Dorset — which is set to become the “One Health Aquaculture Capital of the UK”. Plans are already taking shape — a company:

“has been recently formed to exploit this exciting opportunity with an initial project in Portland Port which will grow both seaweed and shellfish species such as oysters and scallops. The initial investors include several local partners with relevant expertise to make a success of the operation.”

The support of aquaculture at Portland Port is part of the DLEP’s commitment to “clean-growth industries”. According to the DLEP, the development of “truly sustainable aquaculture systems… would reduce our impact on the environment, drive economic growth and make valuable social contributions.” That’s why the DLEP are working towards:

After all, according to the DLEP, “Dorset is an exemplar of sustainable coastal living”.

➤ One Health and jobs

DLEP sees the One Health strategy as a stimulus for investment and “clean growth”, attracting new business and new jobs to the area:

Taking Dorset aquaculture as an example of a One Health inspired business model, the DLEP is seeking to develop “clear employment market access routes, through the use of internships/apprenticeships into Dorset/Great South West aquaculture companies.”

Sarah Pinder of Dorset Seaweeds (a member of the Coalition Against The Burner) told the Dorset Echo: “I think aquaculture in Dorset is a really exciting opportunity. There’s a great potential here, it could create a lot of jobs.”

The waste incinerator at Portland Port would, at the end of a £100 million investment, create just a handful of jobs. According to the planning proposal: “it is anticipated that the proposed ERF [Energy Recovery Facility] will offer two apprenticeship positions, ongoing during its operation.” And “post-construction, the proposed ERF will employ between 30 and 35 people”.

However, the incinerator building would be so enormous (200m+ long) that the actual However, the actual jobs/hectare created by the proposed incinerator would be lower than if the land were subject to more varied and sustainable development. To give an idea of how dreadfully inefficient it would be in terms of land use and investment: the new Food Warehouse superstore in Weymouth “created 30 new jobs” for an investment of £750,000 on an area of 0.085 hectares. The incinerator would, according to the planning proposal, create a similar number of jobs, but for a vastly greater investment of £100 million and on a much larger area of 6.29 hectares. It’s a damning comparison.

Aquaculture and toxic ash

The suitability of having an aquaculture project right alongside a large-scale waste incinerator, which involves processing highly toxic materials, is highly questionable. Quite apart from the year-round fumes, a waste incinerator also produces a large amount of toxic ash, known as Incinerator Bottom Ash (IBA).

As Powerfuel’s transport consultant, Ian Awcock, told a Weymouth Town Council planning meeting: “A plant like this does actually produce quite a lot of ash, it’s burning a lot of waste” — so what happens with this ash. According to Steve McNab, a director of the company behind the proposal:

“The intention is that specialist vessels will be used to store the IBA once it is produced, within the port… Those ships would be moved around to a location which is also on the waterfront…”

Misleadlingly, the planning proposal talks about “the inert nature of the material leaving site” — however, untreated IBA is actually highly unstable. In 2017 a vessel containing untreated IBA exploded just off the coast of Plymouth (see Marine Accident investigation Report 26/2017). In a response to the planning proposal, the law firm Freeths drew attention to “the risks associated with untreated IBA6 and the possibility of marine pollution resulting from any possible leakages/ explosions from the untreated IBA”. Any leakages at all of this highly toxic material, let alone an explosion, would be catastrophic for local habitats and put an unpleasant end to any aquaculture in the area.

➤ Conclusion

We’ve seen how the DLEP’s commitment to “clean growth”, social inclusion and environmental protection is encapsulated in a far-reaching One Health vision for Dorset. A vision which pays particular attention to protecting biodiversity in the natural environment and protecting disadvantaged populations in society. And we’ve seen how this strategy is radically incompatible with the building of a large waste incinerator at Portland Port, an area which surrounded by a patchwork of highly protected wildlife zones and economically deprived communities.

In its 2017 ‘Guidance on Integrating Biodiversity Considerations into One Health Approaches’ the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity urges that “One Health policies, plans or projects” should take into consideration factors such as “inequality” and should:

“promote the understanding that biodiversity conservation and healthy ecosystems provide an opportunity to help achieve broader societal and development goals in addition to supporting a healthy environment and society.”

And it advises policymakers and planners to situate industrial activity “away from areas adjacent to highly biodiverse and sensitive ecosystems”. Not stick a “power station” right on top of them.

It seems, given the environmental and societal context, impossible that building a large waste incinerator at Portland Port would be compatible with the DLEP’s One Health vision for Dorset. As the DLEP itself says:

“Our future choices are about optimising future economic growth while preserving and enhancing Dorset’s unique environmental assets in order to support and maintain high levels of health and well-being — a vital prerequisite and ingredient of Dorset’s future .”

➤ Appendix 1: One Health and pollution

Air pollution has been recognised by the WHO as the world’s “largest single environmental health risk”. The 2008 One Health Initiative report cited above notes that the “pollution and contamination of our environment” can have catastrophic effects, creating “favorable settings for the expansion of existing infectious diseases, as well as an increasing number of acute and chronic non-infectious disease events”.

The One Health paradigm is also used in a 2017 UN report on the subject of ‘Biodiversity and Human Health’, published by the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity. It’s a paradigm which highlights “the cross-cutting issue of biodiversity and human health”.

The report identified “pollution” as one of the main “shared drivers of biodiversity loss and ill health. The “pollution and contamination of our environment” can have catastrophic knock-on effects, creating “favorable settings for the expansion of existing infectious diseases, as well as an increasing number of acute and chronic non-infectious disease events”. And that’s on top of its direct effect on human health. For example, “exposure to air pollutants” is one of the key contributors to non-communicable diseases (such as chronic respiratory diseases and heart and lung conditions).

In terms of incinerator emissions — a 2013 Technology Brief from Defra on ‘Incineration of Municipal Solid Waste’ looks at the “emissions from an Incinerator typical of those currently operating in the UK” which is 230,000 tonnes per year. Defra found that:

“emissions of oxides of nitrogen from a typical incineration over a period of an hour are approximately the same as emissions of oxides of nitrogen from a typical motorway 7 km in length over a one hour period.”

According to the planning application for the Portland incinerator, it has “a maximum throughput of 202,000 tonnes per year”. So, around 87% of the Defra figure, meaning that — in terms of local emissions — the people (and prisoners) living around the incinerator would be living next to a 6km stretch of motorway, condensed into a single enormous facility, running 24 hours a day, year round.

Meanwhile, the 2017 Plantlife study ‘We Need to Talk about Nitrogen’ states that air pollution is “driving widespread eutrophication of ecosystems and biodiversity loss, exacerbating climate change and causing significant human health impacts.” And these effects come with an economic cost:

“reactive nitrogen is a significant contributor to the human health impacts of poor air quality that costs £16 billion a year”.

➤ Appendix 2: Pollution and social deprivation

The Defra study from 2006 found a clear correlation between social deprivation and increased air pollution:

“Communities characterised by high levels of deprivation often experience higher than average pollution, or pollution levels that are relatively higher than those experienced by less deprived communities”.

One of the main reasons for this is that “larger industrial sites… tend to be situated in or located near more deprived areas”. And what’s more: “a disproportionate number of some of the most vulnerable members of the community also live in these areas.” Again, this health inequality comes with an alarming economic price tag: the WHO estimated the economic cost to UK of early deaths due to ambient particulate pollution in 2010 as approximately £54bn.

Citing this WHO data, a 2019 paper ‘Emissions vs exposure’, published by academics at the Air Quality Management Resource Centre in Bristol, highlights “the environmental justice and social inequality issues of air pollution” and concludes that:

“it is clear that policies to remediate pollution would benefit by taking greater account of the differences between those who cause the problems and those who bear the costs.”

Appendix 3: Pollution and Biodiversity

Dr. Alexandra Cunha from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), the public body that advises the UK Government on conservation matters, recently stated: “It is important to understand that when we are implementing measures to protect biodiversity, we are also protecting human health.”

The UK’s Biodiversity goals were set out in 2011 with the publication by Defra of the policy paper ‘Biodiversity 2020:A strategy for England’s wildlife and ecosystem services’. In it, the then Secretary of State for the department states: “our ambition is to move progressively from a position of net biodiversity loss to net gain”.

The paper says that “we need to reduce direct pressures on our biodiversity” — and notes that “Air Pollution” (alongside invasive non-native species) is one of the two main “direct pressures” on biodiversity. And it is an environmental pressure that can be felt at a distance from the source of the pollution:

“Some air pollutants (such as oxides of nitrogen, ammonia and ozone) travel great distances and cause harmful effects far from their source, so action is needed at domestic, EU and international levels.”

The paper argues that, in terms of policymaking, there is an urgent need:

“to take better account of how much nature does for us. Biodiversity provides a range of benefits to people, but these are often not taken into account in decision-making.”

It wants to see a world in which “policy makers and wider society can understand the importance of biodiversity” — in which “the value of biodiversity is reflected in decision-making in the public and private sector.”

One of the paper’s key practical goals is “increasing the proportion of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in favourable condition”. Specifically:

“Better wildlife habitats with 90% of priority habitats in favourable or recovering condition and at least 50% of SSSIs in favourable condition, while maintaining at least 95% in favourable or recovering condition”.

As regards the marine environment in particular:

“There is a need to conserve and where appropriate or feasible restore our marine habitats, take steps to alleviate pressures on threatened species and ensure that the way we manage our marine environment is based on an ecosystem approach. This will not only build resilience in our marine environment, but also contribute to the sustainable use of its resources.”

One example of a priority habitat in Dorset is Chesil Beach & The Fleet — a highly protected Ramsar site (the Ramsar Convention is the global agreement for the protection of wetlands, particularly those with international importance). It is a short distance from the proposed incinerator location, and the saline Fleet lagoon is fed directly by water from the harbour where the burner would be operating.

According to Air Pollution Information System (APIS) the nitrogen critical load, defined as the amount below which significant harmful effects are avoided, for the habitat type ‘perennial vegetation of stony banks’ is 8–15 Kg/N/ha/yr. The minimum nitrogen deposition calculated for this habitat at the Chesil Beach & the Fleet site is 8.4 Kg/N/ha/yr and the maximum is 16 Kg/N/ha/yr, with an average of 9.65 Kg/N/ha/yr. All of these deposition rates are already above the minimum critical load, resulting in impacts upon this habitat. These impacts include an increase in tall grasses, decrease in prostrate plants, increased nitrogen leaching, soil acidification and a loss of typical lichen species.

Any addition emissions so close to the site would have an even greater negative effect, and certainly not fulfil DLEP’s aim “to enhance the exceptional Dorset environment”. Nor Dorset Council’s determination “to protect Dorset’s natural biodiversity”.