A DECISION on controversial proposals for a Portland waste incinerator has been delayed amid new concerns about the ‘significant impact’ the plant would have on Dorset’s Jurassic coast – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

As reported, last week Dorset Council announced that its Planning committee would consider the proposals by developer Powerfuel at a public meeting on December 22.

But a new objection has since been lodged by Dorset Council’s landscape architect, raising concerns that the visual impact of the plant has been underestimated in assessments by the developer.

Powerfuel has now requested extra time to submit a response, which means the Planning meeting will be delayed and the application unlikely to be determined by councillors before March 2023.

The landscape report warns that the proposed waste energy plant at Portland Port would ‘create a new skyline’ visible from the South West Coast Path, and could undermine the Dorset and East Devon Coast UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS.)

Although the site at Portland Port lies in a buffer zone just outside the boundary of the WHS, the report’s author states that views of the plant “will be apparent from a continuous section of the South West Coast Path long distance walking route. They are also visible from Sandsfoot Castle Grade II* listed building, the designated Heritage Coast area, the Dorset and East Devon Coast World Heritage Site and the Portland harbour waters.”

The council's landscape architect adds: "Even though the land-based viewpoints are from some distance away from across the harbour, the very large scale of the proposed building and stack is such that they will still create significant, adverse impacts.
"If a vapour plume is also emitted, even on a very infrequent basis, this would add a further significant adverse landscape and visual impact.

"The World Heritage Site (WHS) continues for around 2km along the northern shoreline of the Portland Harbour and visual receptors along these stretches of coastline, which includes popular beaches, will be subject to some of the most conspicuous views of the development. These views will also be where the development is seen against open sky as the angle from which the development is viewed means that it will appear at the base of the Portland landform."

UNESCO has previously said its World Heritage Centre is following the incinerator case ‘closely’ with UK authorities and Advisory Bodies of the World Heritage Convention, after objections to the incinerator were raised by the Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Powerfuel said the proposed £150+ million energy recovery facility will help provide shore power to cruise ships at Portland Port. Portland Port is backing the incinerator proposals.

Amid the new landscape warnings, the Dorset Council report acknowledges that the developer has attempted to design the building to blend in with surroundings, noting that "The architects have designed a building whose eastern elevations, in particular, take their inspiration from the shapes and geology of the Portland landmass that will
be their backdrop. The rooflines of the buildings, their relative positions and overlap and detailing have been designed to help the building sit as sympathetically as possible within the sensitive location."

A Dorset Council spokesperson said: “Committee consideration of the planning application from Powerfuel Portland Limited has been delayed and is now unlikely to be determined by councillors before March 2023.

“The council recently published the consultation response to the application from its Landscape Architect and is awaiting completion of the Appropriate Assessment under the Habitats Regulations. As a result, the applicant has asked for more time to consider these conclusions and comment if appropriate. Other interested parties can also read the landscape architect’s response on the Dorset Council website and make their own comments.

“This means the application will no longer be considered by Dorset Council's Strategic and Technical Planning Committee on December 22 as planned. As soon as we have a revised committee date for the consideration of this application, we will inform all interested parties.”