The decision by Friends of the Earth to withdraw from the fight against Shrewsbury’s controversial £60 million incinerator seems to have brought the drawn-out saga to an end.
In truth, following planning inspector John Woolcock’s earlier ruling that Shropshire Council’s waste contractor Veolia would be able to build the facility at Battlefield Enterprise Park, there has been little doubt that it would go ahead.
But the episode has rumbled on for far too long and, questionably, left the town with a facility that few local residents actually want.
Four to five years ago, the idea of burning waste to generate energy was distinctly fashionable. It was easier for Shropshire Council and Veolia to drum up support than it might be today.
A lengthy legal battle ensued, with council tax payers having to foot expensive lawyers’ fees, before the planned incinerator was finally approved.
Proponents of the scheme may content themselves at having won arguments that there is a need for the facility. But it is a hollow victory.
While Shropshire Council and Veolia have won the battle they seem to have lost the war because as a public relations exercise, the issue of the incinerator has been an unmitigated disaster. While once incinerators were seen as fashionable and desirable, they are now seen as being out of date.
Public sympathies might once have been with a council trying to generate low-cost energy and deal with an ever-growing problem of environmentally-responsibly waste management, they are now more likely to be with groups like Shrewsbury Friends of the Earth and the Battlefield 1403 Visitor Centre who opposed the plans.
In coming months, the sound of diggers and earth-movers will herald the first phase of construction and soon after Shrewsbury will have the incinerator.
A straw poll of residents in the town centre would almost certainly reveal widespread opposition to it. The majority want better recycling and waste collection – not an expensive plant that burns our waste.
The lasting impression is of an own goal from a council and waste company committed to an unpopular facility that few people actually want.