CAMPAIGNERS claim a new incinerator could increase the spread of infectious diseases such as coronavirus if given the go-ahead.

The Parishes Against Incinerator group says new research from across Europe supports the theory and members remain adamant the proposed Rivenhall incinerator is unnecessary.

The Environment Agency has yet to the give its approval for the waste plant and 35m-high chimney and is expected to make a ruling later this year.

With a decision yet to be made, campaigners are now highlighting new scientific research to demonstrate the potential negative impact of the incinerator.

Group member and district councillor for Kelvedon and Feering Paul Thorogood said: “There is solid data that shows air pollution contributes to a wide range of diseases so it is plausible there’s a link between levels of air pollution and Covid-19.

“A new study from scientists in Italy shows the high death rates seen in the north of the country correlate with the highest levels of air pollution. There have been similar findings in the US, even with New York removed from the data.

“The need to avoid any increase in air pollution and reduce it wherever possible is essential. The possibility that a huge incinerator, which Essex County Council says we do not need, will be built in the Essex countryside is frankly horrendous.”

Fellow member Nick Unsworth added: “The Environment Agency cannot demonstrate that any air pollution is safe, particularly the vast quantities of pollution from the proposed Rivenhall incinerator burning 600,000 tonnes of mixed waste a year with the shortest stack ever approved.

“The impact of Covid-19 and subsequent lockdown has shown what can be achieved if we reduce emissions.

“We’re all enjoying cleaner air and bluer skies.”

Gent Fairhead, the group behind the incinerator, insists it has made changes to its plans and will ensure the best possible emissions technology is used.

The Environment Agency issued a draft permit earlier this year indicating it was now prepared to support the scheme with a 35m stack.

Bosses said the existing proposals meet all standards and criteria used for issuing an environmental permit.

The permit has yet to be formally approved and campaigners have threatened legal action if the incinerator gets the go-ahead.