Tory plans to radically reform Englands planning system have received a mixed response from the waste industry.
Conservative Party leader David Cameron launched his Open Source Planning Green Paper on February 22. The Green Paper explains that the Tories wish to shift power from Whitehall and regional government and restore local control over the planning system.
The system plans to allow local people to specify what kind of development and use of land they want to see in their area. It will also abolish regional planning bodies, which could mean organisations such as the South East England Development Agency get scrapped.
Waste firm Powerday sales and marketing director Simon Little said he welcomed the Green Paper proposals. He said: If you engage with people early then they understand what is going on locally, they understand the factual aspects of the project and the jobs that can be produced from that project. They will understand how much the facility is going to serve the community as a local requirement.
However, a waste industry source, who wished to remain anonymous, disagreed with the Tory plans. He said the complete opposite needs to happen and the planning process needed to be centralised in Government.
I know if we as a business wanted to build an energy-from-waste plant it will be hijacked by nimbys and swampies - local activists, he said.
Currently, a planning committee oversees decisions on whether or not to approve waste facilities and that process is overseen by local councillors. The source said councillors rely on public opinion and the electorates vote and dont want to do anything to rock the boat so are sometimes reluctant to approve controversial waste facilities.
The Tories also plan to encourage county councils and unitary authorities, which are responsible for waste infrastructure, to compile infrastructure plans which will set out how those authorities intend to deliver infrastructure consistent with the local plans adopted in each local area.
New Earth Solutions planning director Rob Asquith said: Re-shaping the planning system is a massive task and many previous attempts to streamline it have made it more complicated. However, that should not dissuade an incoming government from attempting a wholesale overhaul. In particular a slimmer set of national planning policies would be helpful as the current batch, now added to by the draft National Policy Statements, allows endless scope for debate.
The Conservative plans see waste as infrastructure needing to be planned for at a unitary or shire county level and this may be a case of back to the future. The development plan system could be capable of reacting to the fast evolving technology of the waste and resource recovery sector. A detail that I welcome is the suggestion that sites of former agricultural buildings should be considered as brownfield land this might help our sector bring forward rural diversification and regeneration by the application of new technology linking resource recovery to rural enterprise.
Greenstar UK chief executive Ian Wakelin said his firm has invested and continues to invest heavily in processing infrastructure. He added: Greenstar is also starting to invest in EfW opportunities. Gaining planning approval is an integral part of that investment and can be a barrier. On paper, the Green Paper appears to offer an improvement over the current system, and to give local authorities and local communities more freedom to make the important decisions about local development that will support and enhance local recycling and EfW plans.