Don't put your plans on hold

With the revised Waste Framework Directive waiting in the wings, now is the time to get new sites allocated for waste schemes say Andrew Williamson and Victoria Molton.

Potential developers and operators in the waste industry are at risk of missing crucial deadlines for promoting sites through the local development framework (LDF) process.

There are many waste PFI initiatives going through due process at the current time, in an attempt to avoid the hefty landfill taxes that councils will be faced with. However, one of the greatest concerns is that the planning issues are often left as an afterthought and will usually then delay the provision of the waste facility.

Robust approach
One way that planning issues can be dealt with is to ensure that a robust site search is carried out and that the site or sites are included in any waste development plan document (DPD) that the local planning authority (LPA) may be preparing. While it may be taking LPAs a little longer to get a DPD adopted than was first thought, many are now progressing waste DPDs, and it would be wise to get any potential site submitted for inclusion in the site selection process.

It is far easier to get permission granted on a site allocated for a waste management facility in a relevant DPD, than trying to obtain a planning consent on a site that may be in the green belt or other contentious area. The LDF process allows rounds of consultation to be undertaken with local people, statutory consultees and the waste industry, so that major problems can be tackled before any firm decision is made on a site.

The process also allows local residents to get used to the idea of having such a facility nearby, as the time it takes for a DPD to be produced and adopted can be around three or four years depending on the LPA's progress. In testing the suitability of sites and areas for the development of new waste management facilities, Planning Policy Statement 10: Planning for sustainable waste management sets out a number of criteria that should be considered.

These include the protection of water resources, land instability, nature conservation, historic environment and built heritage, traffic and access, air emissions, odours, vermin and birds, noise and vibration, litter and potential land use conflict. It is these issues that need to be addressed when sites are submitted for consideration by the LPA.

A recent example where planning permission was refused for a waste PFI scheme submitted by SITA UK in Cornwall, shows that submitting a planning application on a site that is not identified in the development plan can lead to an unfavourable outcome.

Last March, Cornwall Council rejected a planning application from the company because of visual impact, noise, impact on public footpaths, inadequate consideration of alternatives, harm to regeneration and an over-dependence on the transportation of waste by road.

If a site is taken through the LDF process and an allocation obtained, these sorts of problems can be addressed and minimised at an early stage, along with the consideration of other sites.

Public consultation
It will also enable the local residents and pressure groups to get involved in the consultation processes that have to be adhered to through the production of a DPD. This all helps with educating the public in why a new waste treatment facility is required, rather than it being a shock when a planning application is submitted. A planning inquiry is currently under way into the referral of the SITA application.

With the EU Waste Framework Directive due to come into force in the UK this December, now is the time to get new sites allocated for waste management schemes and to take steps to avoid any future problems that may occur at the planning application stage. It is suggested by the National Audit Office that between 300 and 500 new facilities are required in the UK by 2020.

Andrew Williamson is a partner and Victoria Molton is a senior planner at Walker Morris

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