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Recycling preferred by courts, but public says "not in my backyard"

By Michael Krantz

A recent article in a national newspaper suggested that people generally dont want a nuclear power station, airport runway or waste-recycling centre in their backyard.

This illustrates the problem for waste recycling in this country. Most people favour waste recycling as long as it happens well away from them.

However, a recent Court of Appeal decision may help to turn the tide in favour of waste recycling.

In a case brought by a local community against Derbyshire County Council, the Court of Appeal upheld a High Court decision which had struck down Derbyshires approach to proposals for a landfill site at the former Glapwell Colliery, near Bolsover in north-east Derbyshire. This was on the grounds that Derbyshire had given insufficient consideration to the objectives of the Governments Waste Strategy 2000. Derbyshire believed it could decide how much importance to attach to those objectives. The court ruled that that was unlawful.

The court observed that Waste Strategy 2000 was the Governments national waste strategy and it required that decisions on suitable sites for waste treatment and disposal must include a local assessment of the Best Practicable Environmental Option (BPEO). It was an objective of Waste Strategy 2000 that BPEO should involve three key considerations namely the waste hierarchy, the proximity principle and regional self-sufficiency.

Under the waste hierarchy, waste recycling and reuse is to be preferred over landfill (see box).

The waste hierarchy is further reinforced by the Landfill Directive.

The objective of the proximity principle is that waste should so far as practicable be managed as close as possible to the place where it is produced. That policy in practice also favours waste recycling facilities over landfill sites because there is much greater flexibility in the location of recycling facilities. Landfill sites are normally restricted to former mineral workings and similar locations whereas recycling facilities can be placed much closer to the area in which the waste stream is produced.

The High Court observed that by publishing the Waste Strategy 2000 the Government did not intend simply to maintain the status quo, leaving local planning authorities free to give such weight as they choose to BPEO. One of the main objectives of the strategy is to deliver change by placing greater emphasis on the need to choose the BPEO when making waste management decisions.

The Court of Appeal agreed that promoting the waste hierarchy was more than a mere material consideration.

The Court observed that the principles of BPEO, including the preference of waste recycling over landfill, must be treated as a highly important consideration by local authorities although it disagreed with the High Court that those principles would always override all others.

The effect of that and other recent court decisions is to promote waste recycling to the status of an important objective that local planning authorities must bear in mind at all times when waste recycling proposals are before them. They cannot ignore or merely pay lip service to the objective of encouraging waste recycling.



Subtle

Therefore, if there is a direct conflict between landfilling and recycling, the recycling proposal will nearly always prevail. But the implications are more fundamental and subtle than that. Planning permission should be granted if it can be demonstrated first that there is a need for a new or additional recycling facility in the area, second that the proposed facility is suitably located and third that its presence would, if only indirectly, discourage disposal of waste to landfill.

A local authority can consider other objectives as well as the waste hierarchy and the proximity principle, including local amenity issues. But unless they can be shown to be of greater importance the local authority should grant planning permission. Where the proposed recycling facility is suitably located, loca

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