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Wheelabrator gets go-ahead to expand power plant at Kemsley, Sittingbourne, but can't add a second unit

Energy firm Wheelabrator has been given permission to increase the output of its Kemsley power station K3 near Sittingbourne from 49.9 mega watts of electricity to 75 MW.

But at the same time Kwasi Kwarteng, who took over as Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy last month, has refused to allow the firm to build a second waste-to-energy power plant on the same site called Wheelabrator Kemsley North (WKN).

Artist's impression of how the two Wheelabrator power stations in Kemsley would look. Picture: Wheelabrator
Artist's impression of how the two Wheelabrator power stations in Kemsley would look. Picture: Wheelabrator

The announcement was made on Fridayand follows the recommendation of a planning inspector.

A spokesman for the government said: "The order grants development consent for this Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project comprising a power upgrade and increase to the existing Kemsley Generating Station (K3) to allow for generation of up to 75MW.

"The Secretary of State has decided to accept the examining authority’s recommendations to grant development consent only to Wheelabrator Kemsley K3 Generating Station."

The refusal to allow the second plant has come as a blow to the company which is "reviewing" the decision.

A spokesman for Wheelabrator Technologies UK said: "We fully support the examining authority and Secretary of State’s consent for the Wheelabrator Kemsley (K3) generating station, given the facility is a nationally critical infrastructure. It provides sustainable waste treatment for materials that cannot be reduced, re-used or recycled and generates partially renewable energy from residual waste which would otherwise have been landfilled or exported to continental Europe."

Building work on the Wheelabrator K3 power plant in January 2018
Building work on the Wheelabrator K3 power plant in January 2018

But he added: "We are disappointed by the Secretary of State’s decision to not proceed with the development of Wheelabrator Kemsley North (WKN).

"WKN is a proposed new single-line waste-to-energy facility capable of generating up to 43MW of renewableenergy by processing up to 390,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste each year. Together, WKN and K3 would have generated enough energy to power more than 243,000 UK homes.

"Our team are in the process of reviewing the decision in order to determine next steps.”

The K3 power plant came online last July providing 49.9KM

The decision to quash plans for the second unit was welcomed by John Twiselton, a former Minster parish councillor on Sheppey who attended the planning inquiry at Hempstead House, Sittingbourne.

John Twiselton
John Twiselton

He warned that the number of lorries taking waste to the plant would put too much stress on the Grovehurst roundabout on the A249.

He said: "K3 will need 650,000 tonnes of waste a year to be supplied by road. WKN would have needed a further 390,000 tonnes of waste a year. Even K3 operating at 75MWis still a massive increase to HGV movements - more than 180 a day."

He added: "I suggested to the planning inspector that both the upgrade to 75MW and the WKN should not be allowed until the Grovehurst roundabout was upgraded. This roundaboutneeds to change from a dog-bone roundabout to a circular roundabout. This would give a much larger capacity.

"It is surprising that both Swale council and Kent County Council granted the initial 49MW planning application without Wheelabrator being required to provide funding to help with the roundabout update. I am not sure they truly understood the level of traffic movements."

The application was submitted on September 11, 2019, and a recommendation made to the Secretary of State on November 19, 2019.

Lorries already using the Grovehurst Roundabout with the A249. Picture: Matthew Walker
Lorries already using the Grovehurst Roundabout with the A249. Picture: Matthew Walker
What the Grovehurst roundabout on the A249 could look like if government funding is approved
What the Grovehurst roundabout on the A249 could look like if government funding is approved

Wheelabrator already supplies 77 tonnes of steam power to its neighbour, DS Smith's Kemsley Paper Mill.

Read more: All the latest Sittingbourne news

Read more: All the latest Sheppey news

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