Despite the spin put on by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles in his newspaper interview, that proposed new rules in the updated planning policy paper Planning for sustainable waste management “will discourage the likes of incinerators and waste dumps on Green Belt land”, the reality is less dramatic.
Leaving aside Mr Pickles’ deplorable choice of language in describing modern fully engineered landfills, waste management companies have always approached applications for facilities on Green Belt land with caution.
From a developer’s perspective, Green Belt sites are only pursued after an exhaustive assessment of market need, environmental impact and availability of sites which demonstrates the very special circumstances required by planning policy. Planning authorities are equally cautious when considering these applications.
Government still wants defining and siting waste infrastructure to be plan-led. Given that waste planning authorities are enjoined to “work with local planning authorities to protect Green Belts” and that “the particular locational needs [of waste facilities should be recognised] when defining detailed Green Belt boundaries”, the onus is squarely on local authorities to build Green Belt protection into a viable and sustainable local waste plan.
Furthermore, since “applications for facilities located in the Green Belt will still need to be considered … on their individual planning merits” the new rules need not disadvantage properly considered, environmentally sensitive applications that are also in line with the local plan.
Mr Pickles’ interview has generated eye-catching headlines in the press but in fact he is ‘tilting at windmills’.
Dr Gev Eduljee, external affairs director at SITA UK