MPs and campaigners weigh in on Calderdale incinerator appeal

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

Both of Calderdale’s MPs and a campaign group have given their views ahead of a public inquiry into a company’s application to build an incinerator in the borough, backing the decision to reject it.

Last December, Calderdale Council’s Planning Committee rejected plans by Calder Valley Skip Hire for an incinerator at its Belmont site in Sowerby Bridge and the company has appealed to the Planning Inspectorate to overturn the decision.

A public inquiry lasting at least three days is expected to determine the appeal and councillors are being urged to stand their ground by Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker and the Benbow Group, which is fighting the application.

Meanwhile Halifax MP Holly Lynch has written to the Government’s Environment Secretary Michael Gove calling on him to intervene and set up a public inquiry which will take in both the Belmont inquiry and a separate refusal of a permit to develop an incinerator at another Calder Valley Skip Hire site at Mearclough, also in Sowerby Bridge, which she believes will be appealed.

Tomorrow (Tuesday, August 14) the Planning Committee is scheduled to debate the Belmont appeal in an agenda item from which public and press are excluded.

Both MPs refer in their statements to financial and other pressures the council will find itself under defending the committee’s decision last December, which was against planning officers’ recommendations, at the appeal.

The council’s Cabinet rejected the application for a permit at Mearclough in June. So far an appeal against that decision has not been made.

Holly Lynch (Labour) said she backed the council’s decisions to reject proposals for incinerators at both sites, a move she said had cross-party support.

“But the applicant has now appealed, meaning the council could face exorbitant legal costs defending its decision,” she said.

Her open letter to Mr Gove, 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 criticises 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.

“I am deeply concerned about the possible health impact for local people.

“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.”

Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker said he was very disappointed to hear an option which might be considered would be to not support councillors’ original decision to reject both the planning application and the environmental permit application for the proposed incinerator at Belmont.

“Both applications have caused huge concern within the community and thousands of local residents have objected to the proposed incinerator,” said Mr Whittaker (Conservative).

“The council has a duty to provide a robust case to the Planning Inspectorate which supports its original decision to reject the applications and I am urging the Planning Committee to ensure that this is the case.

“I have written to the Planning Inspectorate to urge them to reject the appeal and have conducted residents in Triangle to encourage them to provide a comment before the deadline closes at the end of this month.”

Last Friday Mr Whittaker 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.”

The Benbow Group, which has helped organise opposition to the plans is urging people to contact planning committee and council to remind members a robust defence of their decision is important to them.

In a notice published on the Say No To Waste Incineration In Ryburn Valley Facebook page, the Benbow Group says that although it does not know what councillors will discuss tomorrow, having reviewed the Appellant’s (Calder Valley Skip Hire) Statement of Case they were concerned councillors would be frightened by potential costs of an appeal, among other matters.

It is believed Calder Valley Skip Hire will argue that in the Belmont case councillors were wrong to go against their officers’ recommendation that the proposal be approved as it was not contrary to the council’s policies and had provided evidence that effect on air quality in the area around the incinerator would not be “significant”

A small waste incineration plant (SWIP) would allow the company to dispose of non-recyclable waste without transporting it over long distances to landfill, it will be argued.