Government urged to simplify hazardous waste policy statement

MPs have called for improvements to be made to government policy surrounding the building of large-scale hazardous waste facilities to reduce delays and costs for developers.

Defra’s national policy statement (NPS), currently in draft form, will guide decision-making on applications for major hazardous waste infrastructure projects. However a parliamentary select committee has warned the guidance is too cumbersome and bureaucratic.

Back in July, the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Committee launched an inquiry into the Government’s proposal for a hazardous waste NPS. Today (December 14) it published a report on its findings, and urged Defra to amend the NPS to keep costs to a minimum and reduce the risk of flooding.

Commenting on the report, Anne McIntosh, chair of the select committee, said: “Planners will rely on this policy statement to determine applications, but at present it contains ambiguities which could lead to lengthy and expensive legal argument.”

“There is a real risk that if this NPS is not amended it will actually discourage developers from investing in the infrastructure that we need. As well as providing greater clarity in the policy statement itself, we call on Defra to look for opportunities to reduce bureaucracy and duplication in the planning process.

“We are also concerned that the NPS does not set out a sufficiently robust approach to the issue of flooding. We have recommended that the Environment Agency be given the power to veto applications on ground of flood risk.”

Responding to MPs’ concerns, the Environmental Services Association’s (ESA) director of policy, Matthew Farrow, said that while the ESA welcomed most of the select committee’s recommendations, it remained “very concerned about the level of fees and charges that will fall on developers … particularly as the thresholds for inclusion in the NPS regime remain relatively low.”

Farrow added that the ESA was keen to see the Government introduce more clarity around the NPS so that the language used “is consistent and accurate throughout the document, so as to reduce the likelihood of legal challenge in the planning process”.

Maxine Perella

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