Lords have criticised aspects of the Government’s Localism Bill over the potential impact of the forthcoming legislation on the waste and recycling sector.
In a debate during the Bill’s second reading in the House of Lords, powers in the bill that could complicate the provision of waste management infrastructure to local authorities were criticised.
Baroness Young of Old Scone cautioned against the localist approach to planning decisions, particularly in the context of waste. She said: “There are also some decisions that are simply too difficult to make at a local level. Waste management is a prime example. Our waste management infrastructure was stultified until we started to look at making decisions about the location of waste management facilities on a level higher than the local level. Decisions had to be made about these very important facilities, but no local community was going to accept them voluntarily.”
Baroness Andrews criticised the Bill’s “duty to co-operate” for local authorities, warning of the impact on controversial waste projects, she said: “We do not even know yet which areas of policy or which geographical areas will be covered. What is likely to happen when it comes to issues which divide local authorities and which have to be planned for beyond boundaries, such as waste incinerators or flood risk?”
While Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA) chairman Lord Redesdale warned that more clarity is required on the issue of sustainable development: “There is the problem that we have to start understanding the carbon implications of not having a well thought-out waste policy. Transportation is one of the highest forms of carbon intensity, which means making sure that we understand that waste parameters are important. If we do not therefore understand sustainable development in carbon terms and what priority it is to take, we will have a problem in that we will not be able justifiably to say that we are coming up with an efficient carbon technology.”
Lord Jenkin of Roding, a joint president of London Councils and a vice-president of the Local Government Association described powers to pass EU fines to local authorities as a “significant worry”. Although he welcomed use of the powers to levy fines on councils which are “failing to obey the directive on the treatment of waste and of recycling” he warned that better scrutiny over the powers to pass down fines was required. He said: “There must be some form of independent scrutiny of the proposed allocations, not least-and this is a point which really needs to be taken on board-because the Minister is directly interested in the result. Some of the blame may lie with Ministers. They should not be free simply to shovel it out to local authorities and other public authorities around the country. It is a complete conflict of interest, and therefore there must be an independent form of scrutiny.”