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Planning

Background

As many as 50 new waste facilities a year until 2020 – an investment of £10-20 billion in new plant and equipment – would be required to meet the UK's legal obligations to divert biodegradable waste from landfill.

The Issues

Of the 14 decisions taken by local authorities on ESA Members' energy from waste planning applications since 2008, twelve have been refused consent or not determined: eight of those refusals were against the recommendations of local authority officers.This makes the planning system highly unpredictable for companies – approval by officers is no guide to the actions of local planning committees (even when the same council procured the project in the first place to meet its waste management needs), and the decisions of planning committees can often be overturned on appeal over a varied timeframe.

This unpredictability is not good for local residents or waste management companies. For the latter, it makes it harder for companies to raise capital for waste investment as the risks become seen as difficult to manage.
  
Delays in consenting recycling and waste recovery means that local authorities and businesses face higher waste disposal costs as the Landfill Tax continues to rise (to £80 per tonne by 2014/15). The Local Government Association has predicted that this will cost council tax payers £110 million.

ESA Policy Recommendations

  1. The Government must address the policy and data vacuum following the abolition of Regional Strategies by requiring local authorities to engage in a strategic approach to planning for waste management.

  2. The localism approach to planning must be supported by legislation to expedite preparation and approval of waste development frameworks. Statutory timeframes should be introduced for plan preparation, with sanctions for late completion of plans.

  3. Government should offer strong direction to local authorities that waste treatment facilities should be defined as sustainable development within local development frameworks.

  4. For planning applications that are not processed within statutory time-limits, or are refused by Members contrary to officer recommendations, Government should be empowered to require planning authorities to reconsider its refusal decision and notify the planning authority of the financial costs if the Members' decision was not subsequently upheld upon appeal.

  5. The National Planning Policy Framework must be a material planning consideration and offer planning authorities clear direction on the preparation of waste development plans and on the determination of waste planning applications. There should be a presumption in favour of waste management planning applications – as sustainable development – which accord with the general principles of the National Planning Policy Framework.

  6. The Government should continue to resist pressure for the proposed introduction of third-party rights of appeal, which is unlikely to either streamline the planning process or ensure that decisions on vital infrastructure are promptly delivered.

  7. Government should initiate a review of permitted development rights, simplifying waste planning for minor developments by extending permitted development rights to the waste industry for small, non-controversial development on existing facilities.

Residential encroachment

Pressure to deliver new housing development is increasingly bringing such projects into conflict with operators of existing waste management facilities. Existing waste management sites (or sites allocated for waste management in local development plans) would benefit from an adequate buffer between such sites and new housing development to ensure that the day to day operations of waste facilities is not compromised, or in any way limited, by its proximity to sensitive receptors.

Read the ESA Planning Briefing here