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News analysis: The problems in planning waste management's future

After all the backslapping for beaten recycling targets last week, Government and industry have been given a reality check on the challenges ahead for waste management in England and Wales.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's (ODPM) consultation on planning for sustainable waste management, Planning Policy Statement 10 (PPS10), closed on Friday March 11.

It explored what could be done to improve and speed-up the planning process, one of the major stumbling blocks to developing the UK's recycling and waste management infrastructure.

The crux of the problem is that while many are happy to sort their waste for recycling, no one wants a load of rubbish being recycled in their back yard.

As Lester Hicks, ODPM head of minerals and waste planning said at a planning conference last year: "Waste-management is the ultimate bad-neighbour development. You must get the community on side or it will slow things down."

At the same conference Environmental Services Association (ESA) chief executive Dirk Hazell said: "An application for a waste-management facility can cost £1 million, and if it goes to a public enquiry, you can add on a few more million."

The Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) represents environmental businesses' interests to parliament and in response to the consultation, EIC chairman Adrian Wilkes said: "It is clear that we need a large number of new waste management facilities in order to meet our targets for diversion of waste from landfills.

"It is also clear that delays and uncertainties in the planning process are blocking many of these facilities.

"While in many cases these barriers can and should be overcome through developers and officials taking a more transparent and consultative approach to local communities, some of the measures described in this consultation will also contribute to an improvement in facility provision."

These measures aim to make waste management a priority for planning authorities, making them consider the need for new facilities at a regional level.

ODPM proposes that regional planning bodies would prepare a planning strategy for waste that looks as far ahead as 15-20 years.

These strategies would look at the distribution of waste tonnages across regions and force planners to examine the pattern of emerging waste facilities, not only within their area, but across the whole of the country.

Regional and local planning strategies for waste management will also have to be considered alongside other spatial planning concerns.

More significantly, PPS10 removes the Best Practicable Environmental Option (BPEO) from the planning process.

When planning, the preferred option is that which provides the most benefit and least damage overall.

The BPEO approach implicitly recognises that the preferred option may differ from location to location because of varying local needs and resources.

However, in response to the consultation, EIC director Merlin Hyman said: "BPEO has too often been applied by objectors to individual facility applications and not in the wider context of an agreed area or regional strategy, in order to frustrate the planning process for that facility."

This concern has been allayed by ODPM, which proposes that planning is no longer subject to BPEO, but rather a "sustai

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