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Big Runcorn RDF expansion challenged on two fronts

Local campaigners and a rival waste management company are separately challenging proposals by Ineos ChlorVinyls to increase the amount of refuse derived fuel (RDF) transported by road to its Runcorn combined heat and power (CHP) plant from 85,000 to 480,000 tonnes a year. 

In 2007, Halton Borough Council, as consultees, called for a limit of “a minimum of 90% (by weight) of the refuse derived fuel to be burnt in the plant shall be delivered to the site by rail or water” in 2007.

The year after, it added: “Unless all of these matters are satisfactorily addressed by the Secretary of State the council would wish to object to the granting of permission”.

When planning permission for the facility was granted by the former Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform in 2008, the condition was subsequently amended with a so-called ‘tailpiece’ which adds that the amount of RDF transported by road cannot be increased  ‘unless agreed in writing with the council’ – an amendment which Ineos are now seeking to activate.

Proposals to invoke the tailpiece of the condition and increase the road transport tonnage were initially recommended to the council’s Development Control Committee (DCC) on the grounds that “a significant reduction of green house gas emissions from transport could result and that there is not a significant impact on the local highway network. As such, the request to vary the level of fuel tonnage delivered by road can be seen as being supportive of policy.”

The DCC decision was subsequently postponed following complaints.

Halton Action Group Against the Incinerator (HAGATI) chairman Jeff Meehan told MRW: “If Halton had objected (to the original planning permisssion), we would have had our public inquiry. But we didn’t because Ineos agreed to that limit. Because Halton didn’t object, it went through without any public inquiry, that’s what we’ve been after all the way through.”

The new levels have been opposed by property consultancy GVA Grimley, who have written to the council on behalf of Covanta Energy, questioning whether the council has the authority to make a decision.

A letter seen by MRW states: “The variation would lead to a 565% increase in the tonnage of fuel that can be transported to the plant by road compared to that currently permitted …The variation would lead to a material change to the development permitted to occur and bypass the statutory process for the grant of planning permission and the variation of conditions.

“Our client would therefore question whether this most recent application can indeed be determined by the local planning authority and we would seek the authority’s confirmation as why it considers that it has the necessary jurisdiction.”

In a statement, Covanta managing director Malcolm Chilton said: “Covanta recognises that there is a growing need for this type of facility to address the needs of both household and business waste. However, there are good reasons for having planning laws and these should not be overlooked.”

Documents supporting Ineos’ application stated: “If the EfW Facility is to be appropriately used to manage North West municipal and commercial and industrial waste arisings it is essential for Ineos to act now to seek the Council’s agreement to the increase in road delivery volumes prior to responding to tender requests. Ineos’ application is based on its requirement for flexibility to source commercially viable RDF from within the north-west, to fill remaining capacity and sustain the future and economic viability of the Runcorn EfW facility.”

The council said in a statement: “Members of the committee were advised by the council’s legal officer that correspondence received by GVA Grimley had raised two issues which were material considerations and which had to be resolved before the application could be determined.

“The first related to the type of waste that could be used to derive fuel. The second issue had only been submitted in detail on the afternoon of the committee meeting. The applicant was entitled to have time to comment on this and there was clearly insufficient time to analyse counsel’s opinion prior to the meeting. Therefore, it was concluded that the committee was not legally in a position to determine the application at this time, and the item should be deferred until both issues have been resolved.”

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