CONTROVERSIAL plans to build an incinerator in the heart of mid Essex will go before the High Court this week as campaigners make a last-ditch attempt to block the plans.

No Essex Incinerator, also known as Parishes Against Incinerator, have issued a legal challenge against the Environment Agency's (EA) decision to grant a permit for the proposed waste plant at Rivenhall Airfield.

The EA had previously refused to give a permit to Gent Fairhead and co to build the waste plant alongside a 35 metre chimney.

But they reversed the decision earlier this year after stating incinerator operators Indaver would be using the "best possible emissions technology" alongside the 35m chimney.

Opponents to the plans claim the low height of the stack will severely impact the air quality on homes in the surrounding area.

No Essex Incinerator says that the emissions from the site would be equivalent to 120,000 cars each travelling 8,000 miles a year around Braintree in Essex.

It believes there is no other waste management facility with a stack at such a low height in the whole of the UK.

The High Court challenge, which begins tomorrow (Tuesday, October 13), is made on the following grounds:

• Permitting the 35m stack height amounted to a breach of the Industrial Emissions Directive

• Even if a 35m stack was capable of being a best available technique, the Environment Agency failed to take into account the need to reduce to a minimum the overall impact of the emissions on the environment

• The decision was made in a manner contrary to guidance produced by the Environment Agency without good reason.

Nick Unsworth, PAIN campaigner, said: “We believe it is vitally important to our local communities that we ask why this permit has been allowed given the Environment Agency’s original emphatic refusal of a 35m stack.

"It seems totally contrary to the climate change crisis we face, what we now know about the impacts of air quality on human health, education, schools, and the impact of CO2 on our environment (the incinerator will generate 500,000 tons per year) never mind the various agreements the UK government has signed up to.

"We keenly await the court’s decision on our application.”

Leigh Day solicitor John Crowley, who will be representing the campaigners in court, said: “Our client believes that the building of a 35-metre stack at what will already be one of the biggest waste incinerators in the UK will have a massively negative effect on the lives of residents in the surrounding villages.

"We hope the court will see the force of our arguments, and allow the claim to proceed to a full hearing, so that the problems of the permit can be put under the spotlight.”

In response to the legal challenge issued by campaigners, the EA has said: "We stand by our technical assessment and remain satisfied with our decision and that the additional pollution control techniques proposed by the company will ensure that the stricter emission standards can be met."

Indaver representative Gareth Jones added: "We're aware the judicial review hearing is going ahead this week and we will be closely following its progress.

"We are confident that the EA will defend its decision."