THERE will be no incinerator in Northwich.

Thousands of residents can breathe a sigh of relief with Cheshire County Council’s announcement today, Wednesday, of the two companies shortlisted for its £850million waste contract.

Waste Recycling Group (WRG), which had proposed to build an incinerator in Lostock, is no longer in the running.

Council chiefs from Cheshire West and Chester, Cheshire East and Cheshire County Council selected Viridor Waste Management and a joint venture between United Utilities and Interserve from the five companies that tendered for its 25-year waste contract.

County councillor Gretta Cousins, finance executive member, said: “We have taken a major step in helping to protect Cheshire’s quality of life for future generations.

“Not only that but whatever proposal is adopted – and everything will be examined in the greatest detail – will also provide employment and investment opportunities in the area.”

Viridor proposes to treat post-recycling residual waste at a centrally-located biological treatment plant. The waste would be transported from ‘waste stations’ in the east and west of the county, before being transformed into solid recovered fuel (SRF).

This would then be treated at a special plant which creates heat and power from the burned waste, based at the Ineos Chlor site in Runcorn.

Barrie Hurley, Viridor’s technical and development director, said: “Our solution brings environmental, social and economic benefits both locally and regionally.”

United Utilities and Interserve propose a state-of-the-art ‘gasification’ solution which would transform waste into energy and harmless aggregates for the building industry.

Waste, transported from transfer stations to a new treatment facility, would initially be sorted, and materials like glass, metal and plastics, removed for recycling through local re-processors.

Residual waste would be heated under controlled conditions to produce gas, eventually mixed with oxygen to drive turbines and generate energy in the form of electricity and heat – used to both power the facility, and then distributed locally.

3As power is generated from organic sources and is recognised as ‘green’ or ‘renewable power’ displacing the need for fossil fuels.

Charlie Cornish, managing director of business development at United Utilities, said: “We aim to improve existing recycling and waste management across Cheshire, using environmentally sustainable, advanced technologies that support the generation of renewable energy.

“Our solution will complement and enhance initiatives on recycling and we will reinforce this commitment through a dedicated education and outreach centre. “ The county already recycles around 47 per cent of household waste – just three percent short of its 2020 target.

But acute shortage and spiralling costs of landfill, the effect of greenhouse gas emissions on global warming and the need to gain further value from waste, demands sustainable treatment of the remaining 200,000 tonnes annually.

Cheshire already pays out £6.4million in landfill tax every year – this amount is to be increased by £8 per tonne from next year - and the new authorities will also face considerable fines at £150 per tonne should they fail to meet their landfill allowance.

Clr Neil Ritchie, environment portfolio holder Cheshire West and Chester Council and chairman of Cheshire’s Joint Waste Management Board : “Not only is landfill space in short supply, much of the waste currently ending up there is harmful to the environment and costing taxpayers more in landfill tax “It is a waste of natural resources, totally unsustainable, and for the good of future generations cannot be allowed to continue.”

The two remaining proposals will be scrutinised before the Joint Waste Management Board makes its recommendation on a preferred bidder in November.

A full public consultation will take place in the summer when United Utilities/Interserve and Viridor are expected to submit planning applications which will include full details of processes and proposed sites.

If the programme is approved and meets its schedule, waste treatment facilities will take up to three years to build and could be operational around April 2013.