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Tory MP seeks local referendum waste facility Bill

A Conservative Party MP has called for Parliament to bring in a Bill to require planning authorities to conduct a local referendum before considering planning permission for large-scale waste disposal facilities which involve the disposal of waste from more than one county area.

Speaking at a House of Commons debate on waste recovery and disposal facilities (6 April), Nadine Dorries, MP for Mid Bedfordshire, said such a Bill would ensure that planning authorities and the Secretary of State must not grant planning permission if the result of such a referendum indicates that local people do not wish a facility to be developed and for connected purposes.

The news follows an announcement in February by the Conservative Party of plans to radically reform Englands planning system.  In its Open Source Planning Green Paper, the Tories said they wanted to shift power from Whitehall and regional governments and restore local control over the planning system.

Dorries said that during the planning consultation process, the wider community view many not necessarily reflect the opinions of those citizens whose lives and environment will be deeply affected and impacted upon by a decision that has been taken elsewhere. Ultimately, local people feel powerless to control their quality of life.

She said she hoped the Bill would genuinely harness local opinion and allow a yes-or-no decision to be taken on the size and capacity of such a facility.

Dorries highlighted how in Mid Bedfordshire, local people were opposing a proposal from waste firm Covanta to build an energy-from-waste facility in the Rookery Pit area. She said that Covanta had maximised the opportunity to enter a sham process of local consultation and public relations, to try to convince local people that it has in some way advanced as a preferred developer and operator.

Dorries explained: The company has even indicated to me and other people that it is talking to local planners, which is not the case. The fact is that many organisations may tender, and probably will do so, to build the EfW plant at that location.

She said that Mid Bedfordshire had an excellent recycling record at 44% and local residents did not understand why Bedfordshire should process the waste for Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Milton Keynes, Hertfordshire or anywhere else - counties that are quite capable of providing facilities to cater for their own waste.

She added: Facilities of Covanta proportions can be disguised in the wonderful, large-scale US. But England is a fairly small island that is already becoming over-populated. We have no capacity for a facility the size of the Covanta proposal.

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