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Veolia wins legal challenge over rejection of EfW plant

The planning application for Veolia’s energy-from-waste plant in Hertfordshire is now back with Eric Pickles after a successful legal appeal by the waste management company.

The communities secretary had ruled in July 2014 that the proposed New Barnfield plant in Hatfield could not go ahead, largely based on its position within the Green Belt.

At the time, Pickles said: “Development within the green belt will not be allowed unless there are very special circumstances, and in this case, the benefits of the development did not outweigh the potential harm to the green belt.”

But the 13,000-word judgment by Mr Justice Holgate, following a two-day hearing brought by Veolia at the Royal Courts of Justice in December, makes it clear this was not the case.

In particular the judge said that the county council’s local plan, which was being updated during the process, had not been given sufficient regard.

We are fully aware that there have been concerns in the local area about these plans and we remain sensitive to these

Cllr Terry Douris

A Veolia spokesperson said the company was pleased at the development: “We feel that the right decision has been made in this instance, and we now await a redetermination of the planning application by the Secretary of State as early as possible in 2015.

“Veolia are under contract to deliver a long-term solution for the management of Hertfordshire County Council’s (HCC) residual waste. HCC’s requirement remains for a solution for the 275,000 tonnes of residual, local authority collected waste that needs to be sustainably managed every year.

“We believe the proposed facility at New Barnfield is the best option and would save the county £450m, providing investment to the local economy, jobs to the local community and green energy to the National Grid.”

In November, HCC said it was giving Veolia until June to prepare an alternative option for the long-term treatment of Hertfordshire’s residual waste. It is not clear at this stage if the authority will continue to want the 180,000 tonne EfW plant at New Barnfield.

After the court case, Cllr Terry Douris, cabinet member for highways & waste management, said: “The county council will continue to follow developments regarding this case while awaiting a revised project plan from Veolia. We are fully aware that there have been concerns in the local area about these plans and we remain sensitive to these.”

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council has always opposed the plan and the council leader, Cllr John Dean, said he was disappointed at the High Court ruling.

“We have fought long and hard to make the case on behalf of residents that New Barnfield is an inappropriate site for the incinerator, as have the people of Hatfield.  We need to thoroughly review the details of the judgement before we can comment any further.”

Timeline:

  • 16 November 2011 - application to the waste planning authority and HCC
  • 24 October 2012 - HCC back the scheme
  • 28 January 2013  - Secretary of State ‘calls in’ the application
  • 10 September 2013 - public inquiry starts
  • 19 February 2014 - inspector produces detailed report to the Secretary of State
  • 1 May 2014 - Pickles invites representations on matters which had arisen after the close of the inquiry and had not been dealt with in the inspector’s report.
  • 7 July 2014 - Pickles rejects the application
  • 14 August 2014 - Veolia says it will fight the decision
  • 16 October 2014 - Defra announces evaluation of the EfW facility and withdraws PFI credits worth more than £115m awarded in 2011.
  • 16-17 December - case heard in London and Pickles ordered to re-think

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