Villagers have staged a protest at a landfill site in Northamptonshire after a waste firm began dumping nuclear waste there days before a legal challenge.
Hazardous waste specialist Augean were given the green light by the government in May 2011 to dispose of the Low-Level Radioactive Waste (LLW) at its East Northants Resource Management Facility, in King’s Cliffe, near Peterborough.
That overturned Northamptonshire County Council’s earlier decision to deny permission and the ministers’ ruling was upheld by the High Court in November. The Court of Appeal will hear a further challenge on 17 or 18 January.
The granting of LLW permits by the Environment Agency allows Augean to process waste such as soils and construction materials from hospitals and decommissioned nuclear power stations. The hazardous waste site could take in up to 250,000 tonnes of material each year.
Protest organisers King’s Cliffe Waste Watchers are concerned about the safety of the material and say it should be disposed of closer to where it originates.
A group statement said: “The secretary of state’s decision to overturn the resolutions of all legally-appointed organs of local government, including the county council - the one directly responsible for planning decisions - and to ignore the 98% opposition indicated by residents in legally-conducted referendums, has made a mockery of the institution of local government and local democracy, and we cannot let this pass.”
Chris Leuchars from Waste Watchers told the local paper: “We’re angered that Augean has started dumping waste so soon before the appeal hearing starts – why couldn’t they wait? That decision eradicated any small feelings of trust towards the company.”
A spokesperson for Augean dismissed the protest, saying: “the company feels that it was quite limited” and pointing out that while police reported around 100-120 protesters, the population of King’s Cliffe is 1,400.
Augean said the case addressed a “narrow point of planning law” and that if the company lost the case the application will be refered back to the Secretay of State who is likely to allow LLW waste disposal to continue.
Dr Gene Wilson, group technical director of Augean said the site provides “nationally valuable infrastructure”.
He said the LLW delivered so far includes: “watchmakers powder paint used to create luminous dials, contaminated soil from the remediation of a flint-making factory, waste sourced from Personal Protective Equipment and materials from decommissioning”.