Surrey should rethink rubbish dumps

Plans to build two rubbish dumps within areas of outstanding natural beauty in Surrey have been slammed by Green MEP Caroline Lucas.

As part of its draft waste strategy, Surrey County Council is consulting on proposals to construct one landfill site at Ewhurst Brick Works and one at Ockley.

Dr Lucas, who is a Green party MEP for the South East and sits on the European Parliament’s environment committee, called on the council to “go back to the drawing board” and re-think its recommendations.

The European Green party opposes the use of landfill sites and waste incineration to deal with the UK’s growing rubbish problem, but Dr Lucas pointed to specific issues with the sites identified by the council.

“Both are reached along narrow, twisting roads entirely inappropriate for HGVs and large-scale refuse transport, and both are near residential properties whose residents would be intolerably blighted, by noise, litter and pollution if the sites were used for landfill.

“But perhaps an even more compelling reason is the aesthetic and scientific value of the sites: both are within areas of outstanding natural beauty as well as designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest.”

“The proposed Ockley site is the location of a recent major discovery of archaeologically-important remains, whilst the Ewhurst Brick Works site is in a lake in the centre of an undisturbed wooded area which provides nesting sites for owls, bats, kingfishers and other bird species.”

Surrey County Council has just closed its consultation on the proposals, which are part of a wide ranging re-evaluation of how waste is disposed of in the area.

Surrey County Council’s executive member for the environment, David Munro, agreed with Dr Lucas that “landfill is an obscenity and a disgrace”, but told edie that the council had a responsibility to “do something” with the waste produced by its residents and businesses.

“She’s in the nice position of not being in power, she never will be and so she can say what she likes,” he said. “We’ve got to be sure they’re put in the right place, in the least destructive place… It’s an uncomfortable duty.”

The council had been searching for possible sites for years. When it was given an indication that the landowners might allow the sites to be used for landfill, it had to consult on the proposal.

Emphasising that the council was only consulting on the idea, not actively planning to put the dumps on these two sites, Mr Munro admitted that the waste strategy was having an impact on property sales. “Properties near there are to a certain extent blighted,” he said.

Jess McCabe

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie