Heathrow, Slough and Grundon agree deal on keeping incinerator in Colnbrook

The Colnbrook incinerator will stay open until 2023 and then move just a few yards back if Heathrow wins the competition to build a new runway.  

Grundon's incinerator will stay until 2023, while a new incinerator will begin commissioning from 2019 to prevent any disruption to revenues streams.

Grundon’s incinerator will stay until 2023, while a new incinerator will begin commissioning from 2019 to prevent any disruption to revenue streams.

Heathrow has struck a deal with Grundon and Slough Borough Council to overcome a risk to delivery of a Third Runway which Sir Howard Davies had described as “high”.

You may have missed it – because it wasn’t announced as such – but Heathrow revamped its ‘North West Master Plan’ once again in February.  In a 3d simulation released to coincide with its submission to the Davies Commission on February 3 the airport took the opportunity to make significant changes to its plans.

Look carefully and you will see the towering structure of the incinerator!  Heathrow is so confident in its new plan that rather than a shaded area of orange on its refreshed plan it has shown the Grundon Incinerator in full 3d glory.

The ‘refreshed again’ master plan has been on display in Terminal 2 for the past week but has not been made available in any other form yet.  It was included in a set of appendices to the Airports Commission which were not published to the airport’s expansion portal.

And key to its confidence is text in the airport’s submission to Davies which reveals it is already working closely with Grundon and Slough Borough Council.  So advanced are the discussions it seems that Heathrow says it is preparing a “joint feasibility study” on moving the incinerator a few yards further back into its Green Belt site:

A site has been identified for a potential replacement facility and a joint feasibility study is being prepared.

“The land is already owned by Grundon, thereby removing a potential obstacle to its replacement. The site is directly accessed off the realigned A4 and therefore would represent no change to existing vehicle access arrangements. NATS have given an initial opinion that the site is suitable for accommodating the height of flue stack required (75m).”

Slough Borough Council, which announced its a partnership with Heathrow coinciding with its own response to Davies on February 3, neglected to mention the advanced stage of its discussions.  It made a strong case to Davies that it would need to be compensated for the loss of £4.5 million in business rates if the incinerator was not rebuilt in the borough.

The new plans are sufficiently progressed with Grundon for estimates to have been provided to Davies on timing.  The existing incinerator would remain operational until mid 2023 while a new facility would require 3-4 years to commission – putting construction at 2019.

The airport says it intends now to work with Grundon to devise a detailed scheme for its replacement so that the necessary consent process could be started without delay should it gain government backing in the Summer.

Three of the four lakes at Colnbrook Lakeside are now set to be lost under plans to which Slough Borough Council appears to have given its backing.

Three of the four lakes at Colnbrook Lakeside are now set to be lost under plans to which Slough Borough Council appears to have given its backing.

The relocation of the incinerator won’t be without obstacle, however.  Having already identified that Colnbrook West and the larger of the Orlitt’s lakes would be lost under the tarmac of a Third Runway, Grundon’s new facility will see the smaller Orlitt’s Lake drained as well, leaving only Old Slade Lake.  The area was identified as informal nature reserve only in 2013 when the Council re-confirmed the local development plan for the borough – along with a commitment to defending the Strategic Gap and improving the Green Belt wherever possible.

Heathrow Airport Ltd agreed with the Airports Commission’s finding that both tunnelling the M25 and relocating the incinerator represented significant delivery risks to a Colnbrook runway.

The airport has now asked the Commission to “modify its assessment of the risks that the re-provision of the energy from waste plant presents to the deliverability of the Heathrow North West Runway to ‘low’”.

The refreshed master plan also shows a change to Heathrow’s proposal to replace the Colnbrook By-pass.

Gone is the dual carriageway rerouted through Albany Park – which was clearly never going to fly.  As widely speculated a new by-pass is now proposed between the new runway and properties in Poyle.  It will now run to the M4/M25 interchange, down to Poyle Industrial Estate and beyond – forming a new HGV route to Junction 13.

While Slough has succeeded in keeping the incinerator in Colnbrook it has failed to persuade Heathrow to tunnel the new by-pass, which will also skirt residential areas and cut through Green Belt.

The deal, revealed by Heathrow in its submission to Sir Howard Davies earlier this month, will be seen as yet more evidence of the lengths to which Slough Borough Council will go to avoid projected revenue losses of up to £10 million from a Third Runway.

 

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