Sunderland City Council defends Washington 'monster incinerator' meeting after flak from MP

City bosses defended the time and venue chosen for a meeting to rule on a controversial application for a ‘monster incinerator’ in Washington.

By James Harrison
Wednesday, 24 July, 2019, 14:33
Protesters outside the Stadium of Light, where a planning meeting is being over a controversial gasification plant

But although about 100 opponents of the scheme turned up to hear the debate and decision on the proposals, there was anger at the decision to hold the hearing at the Stadium of Light at 4.30pm on a Friday at the beginning of the summer holidays.

Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson told the panel: “I would like to express my disappointment that this meeting is being held in Sunderland, not Washington, and in the middle of the afternoon.

“This is limiting [the number of] people who can attend.”

The meeting was listed on the city council’s calendar as an ‘extraordinary meeting’, which council bosses said have ‘no standard times’.

They are also usually held at Sunderland Civic Centre.

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A council spokesman said: “Given the unprecedented level of public interest in this planning application, a more appropriate, accessible, and independent venue was considered.

“For these reasons, and given the application’s city-wide impact, the Stadium of Light was a suitable location.

“Timing it for the end of the working week was also considered more appropriate as it allowed more people the possibility of viewing and taking part in the decision-making.”

Of the 23 meetings of the council’s Planning and Highways Committee held since the start of 2017, including Friday’s, all have been held at Sunderland Civic Centre, 20 have been started at 5.30pm and 21 have been held on either a Tuesday or a Wednesday.

Following the decision, a Rolton Kilbride spokeswoman said: “The application was subject to the most thorough scrutiny by the authority and recommended for approval.

“The proposed facility would have provided many distinct benefits to the local economy, as well as the wider North East region. We will be reviewing all available options in due course.”