A public inquiry into Calderdale Council’s decision to refuse permission for a skip hire company to incinerate waste at one of its sites has opened at Halifax Town Hall.
In the first morning of the inquiry, Planning Inspector Ian Jenkins heard the opening submissions from counsel for Calderdale Council, defending the decision, and appellants, Calder Valley Skip Hire, who argue it should be overturned.
The inquiry is being held into the council’s refusal of permission for the company to use a small waste incineration plant (SWIP) at its Belmont Industrial Estate, Rochdale Road, Triangle, site, and varying some of the site’s existing conditions of use.
The application has proved controversial, attracting opposition from all political parties, MPs Craig Whittaker (Con, Calder Valley) and Holly Lynch (Lab, Halifax), petitions and protests and generating more than 1,000 responses on the council’s planning portal, mainly objecting to the plans.
Mr Jenkins outlined areas he had identified as being the major issues and areas where there was common ground between the parties.
In his view, major issues to be considered included whether the proposal would be appropriate for the green belt or would affect its openness, the effect on living conditions in the local area in terms of Air Quality and noise and disturbance, the effect on the safety of people using nearby footpaths. The council’s view was Air Quality would be a key factor.
Mr John Barrett, for Calderdale Council, said the two hectare site was about one kilometre from Sowerby Bridge.
In December 2017, councillors decided to refuse the application with main issues including its impact on Air Quality and quality of life.
Sowerby Bridge has been declared an Air Quality Management Area because national air quality standards were not being met there, said Mr Barrett.
The proposal would result in an increase in pollutants which would impact on the AQMA.
The appellant’s case was that the impacts were negligible – but the local authority argued that the context needed to be appreciated, that the proposal would add a burden to an area with an already unacceptable level of pollution.
The central issue was the presence of the Air Quality Management Area and it was not enough to assert pollution in isolation was negligible when it will materially contribute to harming health and well-being, said Mr Barrett.
Mr Satnam Choongh, for Calder Valley Skip Hire, said the SWIP site was at an established waste management facility regulated by the Environment Agency.
If the appeal was successful, the result would deliver several environmental benefits.
Less waste would go straight to landfill, which would also reduce the number of lorry movements needed to transfer it off site positively affecting the Air Quality Management Area.
The process involved producing heat which could also be used as an energy source, he said.
SWIP permission did not mean waste going on site solely for the purpose of incineration, only residuals on the site, said Mr Choongh.
The council’s case rested on the single issue of Air Quality, an issue the company took very seriously and they understood local concerns.
When measured against “green” objectives the proposal would have no discernible impact, would have a negligible impact on air quality and no significant impact on human health, he said.
Each side is expected to produce expert witnesses and among objectors intending to speak were Coun Dot Foster (Lab, Sowerby Bridge), Coun Mike Payne (Con, Sowerby Bridge) and Coun Colin Peel (Con, Brighouse).
The inquiry is expected to last four days, is scheduled to end on Friday when, having heard evidence, asked questions and made appropriate site visits, the inspector will consider his verdict, with a decision expected at a later date.