A planning proposal has been put forward by a company called Powerfuel Portland to build a waste incinerator at Portland Port, which is set to expand into a much larger waste management facility: the developers’ plan is to ship in waste from around the UK and abroad, to feed the burner year round. Dorset Council are deciding on the application in the new year.
2. The Building
The main incinerator building would be vast. According to the application itself: “The main ERF building will be 201m long, 51 m wide in the north, narrowing to 24m wide in the south, and 47m high in the north, reducing to 19 m high in the south” and it would have an “80m high stack”. A good comparison for size is the Portland Bill Lighthouse, which is 41m high. Here is the lighthouse alongside a technical drawing of the proposed incinerator, to give a sense of scale:
Again, for comparison: Westminster Abbey at its very longest point is only 161.5m long, and its towers are 68m high.
Powerfuel Portland have said they plan to “camouflage” this giant building, using “printed PVC mesh screening”. According to the plans: “the green wall will be constructed from a high resolution photograph of the existing East Weare vegetation to provide a ‘trompe-l’oeil’ effect that will camouflage a large proportion of the building…”
The developers make the strange claim that: “The composition of the building’s form and materials will create a subtle addition to the landscape.” Here’s the 200m long “subtle addition” to the landscape of Portland, with its 80m chimney stack:
The developers, with a straight face, say that these vast buildings will sit seamlessly in their context” with their printed PVC “camouflage”.
A ‘Landscape Review’ by Coe Design Landscape Architecture identified a number of issues with the design and supposed mitigation of the visual impact of the incinerator. The Review, commissioned by STOP! Portland Waste Incinerator, concluded that:
The effects and impacts of the proposed industrial building and plume, located on a site within the port has a significant effect on the settings of designations that have been awarded to the local landscapes, coastline and seascape including the World Heritage Site, AONB, and also to a Scheduled Ancient Monument, listed structures at sea, and architectural listings and conservation areas. This area of coastline with its eastern cliffs, seascape and silhouette of Portland set against the sea and sky, has a special landscape character and there is potential to significantly erode the highly valued landscape and scenic qualities.
According to the developers, the vast building would be “camouflaged” but also function as a distinctive “gateway” to Portland, saying:
The proposed building creates an opportunity to provide a distinctive high-quality building that acts as a gateway to Portland and Weymouth and greets visitors and tourists arriving by ship.
Welcome to Portland: home of waste incineration.
3. Environmental impact
The prevailing winds would drag the incinerator plume straight across to Weymouth, Lulworth and the Jurassic Coast. The place they’re planning to build the incinerator is surrounded by a patchwork of highly protected wildlife sites. For example:
The Fleet Lagoon
Nestled safely behind Chesil Beach, the Fleet Lagoon is one of the largest tidal lagoons and one of the most important Marine Protected Areas in the UK, boasting some of the highest diversity of any lagoon.
That’s according to Dorset Wildlife Trust Coastal Centre Manager, Marc Kativu-Smith. The Fleet is one of the most protected bodies of water in Europe, and takes all its water from Portland Harbour, where the proposed incinerator would be sited.
The Fleet is described by Debbie Tulett, research officer of the Portland Association, as: “a shallow estuarine lagoon, which provides protection for a range of internationally important populations of rare and vulnerable bird species.” She writes:
The Fleet is an outstanding example of rare lagoon habitat and is the largest of its kind in the UK. In Europe lagoons are classified as a priority habitat by the EC Habitats and Species Directive. The site also supports rare saltmarsh habitats. The Fleet supports 15 specialist lagoonal species and five nationally scarce wetland plants as well as ten nationally scarce wetland animals.
Debbie Tulett notes that Chesil Bank is “one of the most important UK sites for shingle habitats and species”, and is “the breeding site for Little Tern and Ringed Plover, the only sizeable populations of these species in South West Britain.” Here’s Marc Kativu-Smith of the DWT again:
Chesil Beach is a natural wonder, a bank of billions of pebbles, stretching 18 miles along the Jurassic Coast. This extraordinary accumulation of shingle is a geological spectacle and haven for wildlife, with unique, windswept, salt-laden habitats. Important for invertebrates, wildflowers and coastal birds like four-leaved allseed, the scaly cricket, Defolin’s Lagoon snail and little tern.
There are many other sensitive habitats at threat from the incinerator. You can read Debbie Tulett’s objections in our objections archive).
There’s already been a number of high profile objections to this proposal, including one from the Weymouth Civic Society, who note that the planned location is “surrounded by environmentally sensitive sites” — and one from Richard Drax MP, who writes:
It is important not to underestimate the effect this plant would have on our Jurassic Coast, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS). It is, therefore, not surprising that the landscape adjacent to this WHS is an Area of Outstanding Beauty.
The Portland-based arts organization b-side says in its objection:
With increased recogniIon of Portland’s historical and environmental assets and associated recent investment, Portland is on the cusp of greatly enhanced and forward thinking cultural and environmentally sustainable tourism development.
Dorset Council has a choice: to build on the legacy of the 2012 Olympics, protect the Jurassic Coast, and nurture the area’s growing reputation as a centre for artisan food and fabulous views, for sea fishing and fresh air, or turn Portland into a huge and vibrant centre for waste incineration.
You can find more objections to the proposal in our objections archive.