Planning authorities need to handle waste and minerals correctly
As a result of net-zero legislation (including the Carbon Budget Order 2021) and the ongoing climate crisis, there is an ongoing systemic shift towards low-carbon and renewable energy for homes and businesses. This shift is supported by changes in the collection and treatment of waste made by the forthcoming Environmental Bill 2020 which is currently awaiting it’s third reading in the House of Lords.
Therefore, it is particularly relevant that two Energy from Waste facilities have come under scrutiny in the mainstream media this month due to irregularities in their planning process and planning consents.
Barry Biomass Plant
The Vale of Glamorgan Council (South Wales) have decided to take enforcement action against the operational Barry Biomass Plant, which uses waste wood chipping to produce renewable energy, requiring the plant to stop operating and remove all buildings from the land. This action came about at the local authority's Planning Committee after plant owners failed to resolve inconsistencies between the design of the building and the building once constructed. Features including water tanks, machinery, an external conveyor and a substation where not shown on approved plans. Barry Biomass will now be required to appeal this decision with the Planning Inspectorate in order to avoid the closure of the facility.
Kingmoor Park Industrial Estate
In Carlisle, the Planning authority Cumbria County Council requested the Planning Advisory Service (PAS) review the planning application for a Energy from Waste facility at Kingmoor Park industrial estate. The review concluded that an error was made in respect of the time condition attached to the planning permission that was granted. The planning permission will stand as a ‘matter of law’ now that the period for challenging the 2019, which was subject to review, has now passed.
Both of these recent cases demonstrate just how crucial planning is in the project development and operation process for waste and renewable energy facilities. In these cases, planning errors made both during and after the grant of planning permission could result in the loss of renewable energy facilities that were previously considered fully consented.
In a sector that typically sees planning as a less obstructive consenting regime, when compared to that of the Environment Agency/Natural Resources Wales, these cases in the Vale of Glamorgan and Cumbria demonstrate how important the planning process is when achieving consent, and also post the grant of consent, in order to keep the consent up to date and reflective of the existing operation.
Additionally, it is noted in the review by PAS for the Energy from Waste facility consented at Kingmoor Park that a ‘lack of minerals and waste planning qualification and experience of senior officers and directors’ were raised about the function of the planning team in this scenario.
This is a position that we are experiencing across the UK, especially in relation to single-tier authorities where minerals and waste planning isn’t their predominate role. This places the responsibility onto the developers and their consultants to ensure that planning authorities act correctly in matters pertaining to waste and minerals. This position is only likely to be worsened as more areas pursue a single tier of local government.