Waste campaigners in Cornwall have lodged a legal challenge against Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles’ decision to uphold the planning appeal by Sita, allowing the construction of the Cornwall Energy Recovery Centre (CERC) at St Dennis, St Austell.
In a statement from the Cornwall Waste Forum St Dennis Branch (CWFSDB), the group claims Pickles “acted unlawfully in respect of the matter of appropriate assessment contained within the appeal against refusal of planning permission for the St Dennis Incinerator and as a result the Secretary of State’s findings in favour of the appellant (Sita) should be quashed.”
The CWFSDB is particularly concerned that Sita’s proposed energy-from-waste facility is planned to be located adjacent to two special areas of conservation (SAC). According to the Claim Form seen by MRW, objectors to the facility made it clear to the Planning Inspector that they believed the Environment Agency’s (EA) approach in assessing the impact of the plant on SACs was “legally flawed and legally insufficient to meet the requirements of the Habitats Directive, particularly when considered for the purposes of the grant of planning permission”. However, CWFSDB did not challenge the legality of the EA’s approach at the time because it was “repeatedly” explained to the group by the Inspector that the Secretary of State would take the role of the competent authority for the SACs, considering the impact of the incinerator on the SACs himself.
On 19 May, Pickles decided planning permission should be granted for Sita’s facility based on a report from an Inspector who had undertaken a Public Inquiry and recommended the grant of planning permission (See MRW story). However, in his decision he named the EA as the competent authority to assess the impact of the plant on the SACs. By the time this decision was published, it was too late for the objectors to challenge the legality of the approach taken by the EA.
The case is due to be heard in a few months in the High Court.