Council will ‘robustly’ defend incinerator decision at inquiry

Halifax MP Holly Lynch, centre, front, with councillors and campaigners opposing proposals for an incinerator in Sowerby Bridge
Halifax MP Holly Lynch, centre, front, with councillors and campaigners opposing proposals for an incinerator in Sowerby Bridge

Calderdale Council will “robustly” defend its decision to refuse a company permission to build an incinerator at one of its recycling sites.

The council will defend its decision to refuse Calder Valley Skip Hire permission to develop a small waste incineration plant (SWIP) at its Belmont works in Sowerby Bridge at a public inquiry into the decision.

The company has appealed to the Planning Inspectorate to overturn the refusal and the resulting inquiry is likely to last at least three days.

This afternoon (Tuesday, August 14), Calderdale Council’s Planning Committee discussed the appeal in private, with public and press not allowed to be present.

But after the meeting, the committee chair, Coun Steve Sweeney (Lab, Todmorden) told reporters the decision which had been reached.

“The council will robustly defend its decision to refuse planning permission to Calder Valley Skip Hire at a public inquiry, which is likely to be held in the New Year,” he said.

According to Halifax MP Holly Lynch, who also opposes the proposals, defending the decision against legal challenge with its associated costs could cost “hundreds of thousands of pounds” and she has asked a Government minister to intervene.

The proposals have been controversial, with cross-party and public opposition, focused through the Benbow Group, against the plans on environmental grounds, particularly air quality.

The company argues its proposals meet the required standards and the plant, if allowed, will reduce the amount of material it currently has to send over long distances to landfill and as such would be an environmental improvement.

Councillors went against planning officers’ recommendations when they turned the plans down last December.

Both the area’s MPs have reiterated their opposition to the proposals.

Last Friday, Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker (Conservative) tweeted on social media: “Very concerned to hear that @calderdale are considering not properly supporting their original decision to refuse the incinerator applications at Triangle. Council has a duty to residents to support its original decision.”

This week he said the council must robustly defend its decision as the proposals had caused huge concern in the community with thousands of residents objecting to the proposed incinerator.

Councillors voted to do that at today’s meeting at Halifax Town Hall.

Halifax MP Ms Lynch said her concerns about possible health impacts remained, with Calder Valley Skip Hire also having an environmental permit refused by the council’s Cabinet for a SWIP at its Mearclough site, also at Sowerby Bridge, which might yet be appealed.

She said this week that as the applicant had appealed the Belmont decision the council could face “exorbitant” legal costs defending its position and has written to Environment Secretary Michael Gove urging him to intervene.

In her open letter to Mr Gove she says: “Calderdale Council have already rejected the applications for the two incinerators – a decision which is backed by the local community and all local political representatives.

“They now face a legal challenge and prohibitive associated costs which could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.”

Ms Lynch argues that the current planning framework makes it impossible to take into consideration the cumulative impact on air quality of two incinerators, which would be situated in the same valley and only a mile apart, if the Belmont appeal were successful and one were successfully to be made over Mearclough.

She also criticised the current guidelines for considering planning and environmental applications.

“The current regime for determining these applications is wholly inadequate, as no consideration is going to be made of the cumulative impact that two incinerators in close proximity could have on air quality,” she said.

“The Environment Secretary should set up a public inquiry which can examine the impact holistically…it is clear that there is a national failure to properly monitor and regulate particulate matter from incinerators and the government should consider a moratorium on any future incinerators until this is rectified.”