Alert! -- draft hazardous waste disposal guidance

Paul Mobbs mobbsey at
Tue Aug 2 17:05:41 BST 2011

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## please forward ##

T'is the holiday season once more so the government is doing its usual tactic 
of releasing all the most controversial consultations for public comment!

This is big... You think the recent rash of incinerators is bad, try this:

DEFRA have produced a new draft national policy statement for the 
Infrastructure Planning Commission (or whatever the government decides to 
replace it with) on hazardous waste. You can find the draft and supporting 
documents at --

CLOSING DATE for consultation is Friday 26th August 2011.

The Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee is also conducting an 
investigation of the guidance --

Closing date for submissions is Friday 26th August 2011.

I've only had a quick skim through the draft guidance, but there are two 
things that jump out:

Firstly, even though Britain exports hazardous waste, we're going to be 
required to produce sufficient capacity to take all our own material -- with the 
expectation that across Europe trans-border shipments will then even-out the 
demand for treatment facilities. Now some of the activities involved include 
things like ship-breaking, so technically if Europe, or England in particular, 
were to become a world centre for breaking-up toxic ships this clause would 
mean we'd have to find space to treat all of the materials produced from that 
process -- a shortfall in disposal capacity would no longer be an argument 
against prohibiting such activities.

Secondly, as with the current debate about the Localism Bill, the guidance 
find this in para. 4.1.2 of the main consultation document:

"4.1.2 Subject to any more detailed policies set out in the Hazardous Waste 
NPSs and the legal constraints set out in the Planning Act 2008, there should 
be a presumption in favour of granting consent to applications for hazardous 
waste NSIPs, which clearly meet the need for such infrastructure established 
in this NPS."

What's also rather strange is the section later in the draft on "health". 
Basically the guidance reinforces the division of planning and pollution 
control, and states that it isn't the job of planning to consider the effects 
on public health. It then goes on to state (para. 4.10.2) --

"...planning operates in the public interest to ensure that the location of 
proposed development is acceptable and health can be material to such 
decisions. Perceptions of the health risks associated with hazardous waste 
infrastructure may exceed any actual risks and could lead to anxiety and 
stress. Where relevant, applicants should carry out an assessment of community 
anxiety and stress and how this is to be managed."

I.e, it's not the impacts of the facility that need to be managed, it's the 
public's opposition to it. Why all of a sudden do I get the feeling we're 
going to be seeing a lot more astroturfing on this in the future?

On that point, it's worth noting that in section 4.11 it's flagging up the use 
of powers under the planning act to provide a defence of "statutory authority" 
against actions for statutory nuisance against operators of the plant. What 
there saying here is that if the permission considers noise, smell, dust, 
etc., and is considered adequate to permit it, then the developer can use that 
as a defence in any subsequent civil actions for damage.

And, don't forget, all this relaxation of the guidance is being pushed through 
when we have a planning minister, like Ridley in the 1980s, who will pretty 
much allow anything to be built! Also, don't forget that the Infrastructure 
Planning Commission -- to whom this guidance is addressed -- will be abolished 
and its functions returned to the government department concerned. Therefore 
it's civil servants and the staff of the Planning Inspectorate who will be 
interpreting this guidance, and their political master who will be making 
decisions upon it.

Be under no illusions -- we're returning back to the situation we had before 
the revision of planning and pollution control in the 1990s when civil 
servants considered the details of "infratructure developments" behind closed 

At the moment I don't have the time/energy to pick this apart in detail. 
However, hopefully this heads-up will put you all on the case.


- -- 


"We are not for names, nor men, nor titles of Government,
nor are we for this party nor against the other but we are
for justice and mercy and truth and peace and true freedom,
that these may be exalted in our nation, and that goodness,
righteousness, meekness, temperance, peace and unity with
God, and with one another, that these things may abound."
(Edward Burrough, 1659 - from 'Quaker Faith and Practice')

Paul's book, "Energy Beyond Oil", is out now!
For details see

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Paul Mobbs, Mobbs' Environmental Investigations
3 Grosvenor Road, Banbury OX16 5HN, England
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