A NEWLY formed firm is bidding to restart Scotland's dirtiest waste incinerator in the face of fierce opposition, the Sunday Herald can reveal.

Polish-owned Rank Recycling Scotland (RRS) has taken over the Dargavel energy-from-waste plant in Dumfries and is planning to apply for a permit to fire it up again. The plant was banned from operating after hundreds of toxic pollution breaches and a two-day blaze last July caused up to 800 tonnes of partially burned waste.

RRS acquired the assets of the firm that used to run the plant, Scotgen (Dumfries), on the day it went into administration last October. Scotgen's former project director, Lloyd Brotherton, is now project director for RRS, though the company has different owners.

Critics fear that allowing the new firm to simply take over the incinerator from its defunct predecessor is an "abuse of process". They are demanding that the new permit application be toughly scrutinised by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa).

Sepa revoked Scotgen's operating permit last August, but the company launched an appeal to overturn the decision. The appeal, however, was withdrawn in February, after Sepa refused to transfer ownership of the permit to RRS.

Christina McKelvie, the Nationalist MSP for Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, is planning to raise concerns about the latest developments in the Scottish Parliament.

"For this company, Rank Recycling Scotland, to apply for a new permit, having failed to recover the original one, sounds to me like an abuse of process. I am confident that Sepa will examine any such application very vigorously."

RRS confirmed it was currently working on applying to Sepa for a permit to restart the plant. It will be submitted "after the appropriate consultations and a technical review have been completed", the company said.

"We are fully committed to the Dargavel facility," Jan Mroczka, president of Rank Progress and a director of RRS, told the Sunday Herald. "We know there were issues with the previous owners and the operation of the facility and we are very aware of the operating standard we must achieve and maintain."

Sepa's technical support manager, Ian Conroy, confirmed the agency had refused the request to transfer ownership of the operating permit to RRS "having considered the merits of the application".

He added: "RRS may apply in future for a new permit to operate the waste incineration plant at Dargavel and have been advised that Sepa would expect to see a robust demonstration that any recommissioned or proposed plant can comply with all legislative pollution control requirements."