It has been in the making for 15 years, but now the controversial £800 million waste plant at Courtauld Road, in Basildon, is finally taking shape.
More than 5,000 tonnes of steel are being brought in to develop one of the biggest waste treatment plants in Europe.
The plant will deal with 417,000 tonnes of black bag waste from across Essex every year, with any recyclables being removed before a massive anaerobic digester rots the rest of the waste into a compost.
The metal frame currently on view is just a tenth of the size it will be when finished. It is made of marine-standard steel used in battleships.
Preparatory work for the plant has been under way for several years, despite final approval only being given last spring.
Many protected species, including reptiles and great crested newts, have been removed to a new habitat just north of the A127, with the last species being taken there earlier this month.
The waste plant site was a floodplain so 5,000 truckloads of stones have been driven in to harden the ground to allow the development.
According to the developer, there has been just one complaint about the vehicles and AA signs are going up to direct traffic to ensure no contractors get lost.
All vehicles leaving the site also have wheels hosed to clean off mud.
Piles have been driven deep into the ground to create solid foundations for the massive structure where rubbish will be composted.
Many are already in place and there will be 6,126 in the soil once the project is completed.
Other measures being installed are a petrol interceptor in the drain of the planned car park to pick up any pollutants which may seep into the Nevendon brook.
Richard Lancaster, general manager for Urbaser Balfour Beatty, which is building and will operate the plant for Essex County Council, said construction work so far had already boosted the economy.
He said: “The local spend to date is about £6million. We have a contract with Billericay fencing.
The steel is coming on from Dagenham.”
There are 112 full-time workers on site, including two female engineers.
The number will increase as construction continues.
There are also four local apprentices working on site, placed by the Essex Apprentice programme.
Mr Lancaster said: “More apprentices will come in as we do the superstructure and the fit out.”
The closest residents to the site are the travellers on the legal Hovefields caravan site next door.
A large soil bund is being developed so the plant is not visible from the site and an acoustic fence will go up to block out noise.
Mr Lancaster said: “The noisy operations are furthest away from them. They live a lot of the time outside and we have spoken to them a lot and they have been very patient.”
County Hall plans to have the plant operational by this time next year for a year-long test before it goes permanent.
Environmentalists and campaigners had fought plans for the site to be used for a major waste plant since it was designated in the late Nineties.
However, it was eventually approved this year by the Environment Agency despite 5,000 people signing a petition and Basildon Council opposing County Hall’s plans.
[box type=”warning”] Editorial, Thanks to the Basildon Echo[/box]