A MAJOR developer has been told it must deliver a railway link before it can build a new energy-from-waste plant.

Peel, working with waste management firm Covanta, wanted Cheshire West and Chester Council to allow it to press on with the plant at the Protos energy park – formally known as Ince Park, near Helsby.

Permission had been given for the plant by the Government in 2009 on the condition that a rail link is delivered before it is built, to allow waste to be transported to the facility by rail rather than road.

Peel and Covanta, working under the name This is Protos LLP, argued the link was no longer needed – but at a meeting on Tuesday, CWaC planning committee members voted against the proposal.

Jane Gaston, representing This is Protos LLP, said: “The development will be for the same purposes and of the same scale as that already approved.

“It will look the same and have no different effect on the local environment. There will be no increase in traffic compared to the existing consent, with conditions limiting the number of HGVs that can serve the site remaining part of any new permission you grant today.”

In a report issued ahead of the meeting, CWaC officers recommended the request was approved by councillors.

They said it was previously expected that operators Covanta would secure waste contracts that could make use of rail infrastructure, but it had been unable to do so – meaning a rail link would not be used to transport waste to the facility.

But both ward member Cllr Lynn Riley, Conservative, and Cllr Sarah Temple, from Helsby Parish Council, urged the planning committee to overturn the officers’ recommendation – with Cllr Riley suggesting the decision would worsen air quality in the area.

During the debate, Cllr Jill Houlbrook, Conservative, urged her fellow committee members to take their views on board.

She said: “I understand that we all want cheaper energy but do we want cheaper energy at the cost of the environment – and at the cost of the peace of mind of the people who live near this development?

“I have listened to what the local councillors have said and they are reflecting the residents’ point of view.

“And the residents feel that they are being let down by the developers, and by the people who are running the site at the moment, because they don’t feel that actually this rail head is ever going to go in.”

Cllr Brian Jones, Labour, added: “My dilemma is that it went to the secretary of state, and the secretary of state has said that this railway link should be put in.

“The roads are absolutely full of these big wagons, and to get rid of the wagons off the road and bring some of this stuff by rail is my aspiration.”