Council orders investigation into noise and working hours at incinerator site
COUNCIL chiefs have ordered an investigation into noise levels of building work on Plymouth's new incinerator.
Locals living in nearby flats claim their floors shake and walls vibrate when pile-drilling takes place at the site.
The company building the controversial £140million energy-from-waste plant at Devonport's North Yard admitted breaching noise and working hours conditions last month.
But now, after several further alleged breaches, councillors have called for a formal investigation.
Plymouth City Council has launched a Planning Compliance Investigation Case into work on the huge incinerator.
Planning experts are due to publish a comprehensive report, including suggestions for how the authority should enforce the conditions it placed on developers MVV Environment Devonport Limited, next month.
The Herald reported last month how MVV had admitted twice breaching noise conditions since work began.
It also accepted staff had carried on working beyond the set hours of 8am until 6pm.
The council's planning committee was told this week how there had since been another breach of noise conditions, on November 28.
Committee chair Councillor Bill Stevens said: "In view of these incidents and a further five separate ones relating to breach of working hours which have also occurred during construction, a Planning Compliance Investigation Case has been opened by the planning department."
A "comprehensive report on enforcement options" will be drawn up by planners and presented to the committee on January 3, Cllr Stevens added.
When completed, the incinerator, with a 95-metre chimney stack, will burn up to 245,000 tonnes of rubbish a year and run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
It will handle household rubbish from across Plymouth, South and West Devon, the South Hams, Teignbridge and Torbay, plus commercial and industrial waste.
Anti-incinerator campaigner Lynne Hayden, who lives about 300 metres from the site, welcomed the probe.
"I'd like to see the council be strong enough to stand up to MVV, she said.
"I went to see how loud it was from Talbot Gardens and it reduced me to tears to think that people could have agreed to that being built where they have. It was horrendous.
"It's not just the volume though, it's intermittent noise.
"You're always on edge, never knowing when the next loud bang is going to be."
MVV said louder-than-expected noise was a result of workmen striking concrete and other hard materials while drilling.
A pile drilling rig had hit an obstruction on November 28 – the company's noisiest breach yet – and workers had to place extra acoustic barriers around it.
However, the troublesome pile drilling was due to finish next month, said MVV spokesman Paul Carey.
He added: "We make public the fact that there has been a breach and we're rectifying the problem as quickly as possible.
"That includes, if necessary, stopping work on site.
"The noise breaches, when you consider the number of hours a month we are working, are relatively infrequent.
"Our record is actually quite good and we're determined to make sure we don't breach the planning conditions, but unfortunately there have been breaches as a result of certain incidents.
"We continue to work closely with Plymouth City Council."
Mr Carey added that all breaches were reported to the council and published on the company's website.
Residents will get some respite from the work over the festive season.
The site will close down for Christmas on December 22 and workers will not return until January 2.