Veolia’s second attempt to build an energy-from-waste facility for Hertfordshire County Council has had a setback ahead of the council’s final planning decision on the project.
The Ratty’s Lane scheme in Hoddesdon, which has been bitterly opposed by community groups and the local MP Charles Walker, is itself an alternative to Veolia’s plan for a previous project at New Barnfield which was rejected by the then communities secretary Sir Eric Pickles in 2014.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has written to the council’s principal planning officer Rob Egan ordering the council ”not to grant permission this application without specific authorisation” (see attached file)
This is a stage before ‘calling in’, under which the Government can take over decision-making on major projects.
The letter says the move does not stop councillors forming a view on the merits of the scheme or throwing it out. The plans were due to be approved at a meeting on 20 December.
Quoted in local media, which wrongly said the DCLG had called in the decision, Ratty’s Lane Action Group board member and county councillor Paul Mason said: “It’s fantastic news at the 11th hour. It’s a real shot across the bow of Veolia.”
After the 2014 rejection of the New Barnfield site, because the site was in the Green Belt, Veolia went to court and won a case forcing Pickles to reconsider. He did not change his mind.
In October 2014, Defra withdrew PFI credits for the scheme worth £115m, saying the UK had sufficient infrastructure capacity, a debate that it still engaging the industry.