Campaigners ramp up pressure against new application for controversial incinerator in Sowerby Bridge

Campaigners against a Calderdale company’s new application for an environmental permit needed to run a controversial incinerator ramped up their concerns as the deadline for objections to be lodged loomed.
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Worried about health impacts – the premises are situated in a valley – they ramped up their campaign against Calder Valley Skip Hire’s new application for an Environmental Permit to operate a small waste incinerator at its Belmont, Sowerby Bridge, site, with questions asked at a meeting of the full Calderdale Council.

They also lobbied members of Calderdale Climate Action Partnership as members arrived at Halifax Town Hall for a meeting days before the deadline for official objections to be lodged.

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Campaigners lobby Calderdale Climate Action Partnership members over the incinerator permit issue before they met at Halifax Town HallCampaigners lobby Calderdale Climate Action Partnership members over the incinerator permit issue before they met at Halifax Town Hall
Campaigners lobby Calderdale Climate Action Partnership members over the incinerator permit issue before they met at Halifax Town Hall
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At full council, Jane Pugh and George Pickles both urged the council’s Cabinet rather than a council officer determine the application for the permit, which is necessary to run the incinerator.

The company previously obtained planning permission for the incinerator on appeal after the council refused this, and last year a Planning Inspector rejected an appeal citing the council’s failure to determine a previous environmental permit application.

Ms Pugh said she was not satisfied by a previous response to a question she asked at the council’s Cabinet about who would determine the application.

She said the response was “superficial and patronising” as a Cabinet member said their “hands are tied, passing it off as a central government instruction.”

Coun Steven LeighCoun Steven Leigh
Coun Steven Leigh

“This is not true.

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“The Planning Inspectorate have told me that the council is the regulator and has responsibility for this decision,” she said.

Cabinet had made a permit decision – a refusal – over the company’s proposals for an incinerator at its Mearclough site, also at Sowerby Bridge, said Ms Pugh.

“The council or Cabinet should make the decision as it is an executive function of local choice, it is also a key decision, which must be taken by Cabinet as it is likely to be significant in terms of its effects on communities living or working in an area comprising two or more wards in the area of the authority.

Coun Silvia Dacre. Picture: James MieszkowskiCoun Silvia Dacre. Picture: James Mieszkowski
Coun Silvia Dacre. Picture: James Mieszkowski

“Advisers advise, politicians decide,” she said.

Mr Pickles asked a similar question and added: “It should in any event not be taken as a delegated decision due to its significance and need for democratic openness and accountability,” he said.

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Coun Steven Leigh (Con), whose Ryburn ward would be among those affected by the incinerator’s siting in the Ryburn valley, told councillors: “If members are truly committed to public health and the environment, then you would do what you can to stop this from happening.”

He asked Cabinet members to consider “prioritising the needs of local residents when making a decision about granting the environmental permit.”

Cabinet member for Resources, Coun Silvia Dacre (Lab, Todmorden), responded that it was not a key decision.

She said although Cabinet had considered a previous application it was guided by the technical experts in the discharge of its decision-making functions.

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Chief officers had powers to carry out in their service areas functions allocated to their service and with reference to control of pollution or aspects of air quality decisions were not specifically reserved to be dealt with by a council committee, council or Cabinet, said Coun Dacre.

“An article of the (council’s) constitution states under the public services heading that the chief officer, Assistant Director (Neighbourhoods) has within his service area enforcement and resilience, including environmental health and also the area of waste management,” she said.

Coun Adam Wilkinson (Lab, Sowerby Bridge), who is the council’s Cabinet member for Children and Young People’s Services, said he and fellow ward councillors Dot Foster (Lab) and Simon Ashton (Lab) had joined Halifax Labour MP Holly Lynch in lodging their objection to the granting of an environmental permit for the incinerator.

Coun Leigh and his Ryburn ward colleagues, along with Calder Valley Conservative MP Craig Whittaker, had also urged people to register their objections to the permit application.