Furious campaigners fear controversial plans to build a waste incinerator will have to be decided by the courts after Government bosses made a dramatic u-turn.

The Environment Agency is preparing to issue a draft environmental permit for the proposed Integrated Waste Management Facility at Rivenhall Airfield.

Agency bosses will hold a public consultation before issuing the permit, which is for Indaver’s plan to build the incinerator along with a 35m tall chimney.

The proposal was granted planning permission back in 2010 but did not recieve an environmental permit because it did not include the best possible emissions technology.

A proposal for a 58m chimney did however get an environmental permit but failed to get planning permission from Essex County Council.

Nick Unsworth, who is spearheading the No Essex Incinerator campaign against the proposals, said: “The plans are now more than 10 years old. They have wasted all this time and they no longer reflect the new knowledge we have about air particles and air quality.

Braintree Council issued a climate emergency last year - this just flies in the face of that.

“It’s a very big concern. The Environment Agency is essentially saying we no longer want the best technology, you just have to show us the emission levels will be the same as they would be with that technology.

“If it goes ahead, we will have the lowest chimney stack in the country. This will go against everything in the industry.

“We will essentially be guinea pigs for this type of chimney. It has never been used in this country before. It has elsewhere but there have been a lot of problems with it.”

Indaver had a planning application to install a 58m chimney thrown out by Essex County Council last year after bosses said they no longer had a need for the incinerator, and due to fears the stack would be visually intrusive.

The scheme recieved an environmental permit in 2017.

Indaver is now seeking to change the conditions of that permit to allow it to construct the 35m chimney.

The Environment Agency will confirm its decision after the consultation period.

Mr Unsworth added: “My message to people would be go along to the consultations and register your discontent and your objections. The more people that do, the more the Environment Agency will have to listen.

“Unfortunately, this draft permit probably means this will end up in the courts and we will make sure it does. We will get the funds together for it and keep fighting this.

“The main question now is why have the Environment Agency suddenly changed their minds?”

The public consultation was launches on Thursday, January 9 and will run until February 6.

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “We are keen to hear from anyone who wants to have their say on our proposal before we make a final decision.

“Our draft decision document sets out in detail the reasoning for our current proposed decision.

“The draft decision document also provides details of our consideration of those issues/concerns raised by the public during the consultation earlier this year.”

The incinerator will process 600,000 tonnes of waste each year. Indaver says it will recover valuable materials from the landfill waste and produce enough electricity to power 60,000 homes.

Members of the public are invited to speak to Environment Agency representatives during a consultation meeting at Rivenhall Village Hall on Friday. 

The event runs between 2pm and 7pm.