The leaders of Derby and Derbyshire councils have been snubbed by Local Government minister Bob Neill, following a letter to the Minister stating their concern that it is “increasingly difficult to gain planning permission” for controversial waste facilities.
MRW has seen a letter from Derby city council leader Harvey Jennings and Derbyshire county council leader Andrew Lewer regarding the planning inspectorate’s decision to reject an appeal for the 190,000 tonne gasification and mechanical biological treatment (MBT) facility in Sinfin, Derby on the grounds that it ignored the waste hierarchy.
The letter, which was addressed to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles and Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman, said: “Planning problems on waste treatment projects are not new, but it seems to be getting increasingly difficult to gain planning permission. We understand that eight out of the last eleven similar applications have been refused. The rationale for the planning inspector’s decision, if left to stand as a precedent will exacerbate the situation further.
“In the context of this, we are left perplexed about how Derby City and Derbyshire County Councils (or indeed other local authorities) are expected to deliver their locally adopted strategy for sustainable waste management solutions and support central Government policy to divert waste from landfill.”
In his reply, Neill stated he “appreciated concerns” over the Sinfin case, but said: “Planning inspectors must make a decision in line with existing planning legislation. Such decisions must be made in accordance with the development plan for the area, unless material considerations indicate otherwise. What is or is not a material consideration depends upon the circumstances of each individual case. “Ultimately the courts are the final arbiters should any decision, like this one, be challenged.”
He also declined a meeting with the council leaders due to the “pressures of Parliamentary business”.
Resource Recovery Solutions (RRS) submitted a planning application for a 190,000 tonne gasification and MBT facility which was rejected in January 2010 by Derby City Council on the grounds that the proposal “would result in significant harm to the environment by virtue of the emissions from the plant which would result in a severe detriment to residential amenity in the area.”
RRS then appealed the decision with Derby City Council, which was rejected again in 2010. In the decision document, planning inspector Ruth MacKenzie said: “I am concerned that the councils’ commitment to the waste treatment facility, and the facility’s appetite for waste, could divert efforts and resources away from the promotion and encouragement of waste reduction, re-use, and recycling/composting.”
UKWIN network co-ordinator Shlomo Dowen told MRW that the recent appeal decision by the planning inspectorate indicates that the ‘tide has now turned’ for incineration technology.
He said: “The notion that incineration harms recycling is an argument that has been made over many years by anti-incineration campaigners, but now we’ve received official recognition from an independent planning inspector Ruth MacKenzie that it is a material planning consideration that incineration would harm recycling.”
Derby City Council deputy leader and cabinet member for planning and environment Cllr Matthew Holmes said: “We are seeking that clarification from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to enable us to establish how we can best take forward the Derby and Derbyshire waste management strategy for the benefit of all residents.”
Shanks, which owns RRS has confirmed that it is now seeking a judicial review over the appeal decision, but declined to comment further.