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DCLG moots stronger green belt protection from waste planning

Consultation on waste management planning policy, which proposes strengthening protection for the green belt, has been published by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

The resulting guidance from the consultation on planning for sustainable waste management will replace a national waste planning policy in place since 2005, titled Planning Policy Statement 10 (PPS10).

Under PPS10, local authorities are responsible for protecting the green belt and must give ‘significant weight’ to wider environmental and economic benefits when deciding whether to allow waste facilities in these areas.

The consultation proposes replacing PPS10 guidance with the proviso that planners should not develop waste facilities in the green belt except in “very special circumstances”. It states: “This maintains the stringent protection against inappropriate development in the green belt in line with the commitment in the Coalition Agreement.”

The proposals would also require planning authorities to consider “the utilisation of heat produced as an energy resource” when identifying sites for new development. But the DCLG acknowledges: “Many proposed energy-from-waste (EfW) plants are built ‘CHP ready’. But a lack of heat customers, due to location, mean they operate in the less efficient electricity-only mode.”

Although the ESA welcomed the publication of the consultation as a “useful set of guiding principles”, policy executive Stephen Freeland said: “While correctly encouraging the off-take of heat from EfW, ESA would prefer a more robust planning policy framework which helps support local authorities to deliver heat customers to the right locations.

“The Government may also have missed a trick by failing to fully grasp the opportunity to more closely align waste planning policy with its ambitions for a circular economy (where resources are increasingly reused and recycled).” 

Renewable Energy Association head of policy Paul Thompson said: “The proposed measures could make it more difficult to develop waste treatment sites in the green belt, including for organics recycling and anaerobic digestion. It is important to develop sites in proximity to biowaste arisings in order to maximise their value for compost and biogas.”

Gev Eduljee, external affairs director at Sita UK, said the consultation was “less dramatic” than media reports of communities secretary Eric Pickles’ effectively banning the building of EfW and landfill sites on green belt land.

Consultation closes on 23 September. The updated policy will sit alongside the proposed new Waste Management Plan for England, under Defra consultation since 15 July.

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