Friday, 10 June 2011

A letter to Tom Flanagan

I have just sent a joint letter to Tom Flanagan, Corporate Director for Environment, Planning and Economy, on behalf of myself and Cllrs Fred Greenslade, John Wood and Des Curnow. The letter relates to the recent Public Inquiry into the incinerator proposal. The letter was as follows:

We obviously appreciate the hard work undertaken by many officers in the planning and legal sections in defending the Council’s position at the Public Inquiry.

We have also carefully read the Inspector’s report, which recommended to the Secretary of State that the Incinerator appeal be allowed, and the associated comments of Mr Pickles.

As local members, we are very disappointed at the Inspector’s recommendation and his reasoning, as well as Mr Pickles decision. What is more, we consider that the Inspector ignored certain aspects of the evidence and treated other aspects of the case in a manner that could leave it open to challenge.

As the Council robustly defended the appeal, we would request that officers now carry out a rapid, but detailed, review of that decision to explore whether Cornwall Council should make further representations or challenge the decision itself.

Issues of concern to us include the following, though this list is by no means an exhaustive one:

· The Inspector gave “very substantial weight … to the financial repercussions of the CERC proposal not proceeding.” And yet the Council has a Counsel’s opinion that this is not a material planning consideration. We therefore consider this not to be appropriate.

· At the Inquiry, Cornwall Council argued persuasively that an Appropriate Assessment needed to be carried out, to assess the impact of the proposal on nearby Special Areas of Conservation. The Council presented a “Shadow Appropriate Assessment Scientific Report,” produced by Bureau Veritas. It concluded that “it cannot be ascertained that the CERC would not have an adverse effect upon the integrity” of the SACs. The Inspector did not accept these arguments, and we consider there was considerable confusion about process and who was / is the “competent authority.”

· The inspector also accepted the appellant’s arguments that the incinerator, with an annual capacity of 240,000 tonnes, was not over-sized. He wrote that: “It is accepted that the WLP proposed a plant with a smaller capacity, 200,000 tpa. However, subsequent work undertaken for the RSS and WDF point to higher waste arisings than were envisaged when the WLP was being prepared.” However, at the Inquiry it was shown that the WDF projections over-estimated the amount of waste that would need to be dealt with (in 2010) by between 45,000 and 57,000 tonnes. This ignored by the Inspector.

· Evidence about the flawed and inadequate site selection process was also ignored. The Inspector noted that “the site search exercise [was] conducted by the WPA and published in July 2006. On the basis of this document, the WDA acquired an option on the appeal site.” But it was demonstrated at the Inquiry that the Council had pre-determined the site and started design and other works in mid 2005!

· In a number of places, the inspector referenced the spurious claim that the ‘eco-town’ would take heat from plant if it was built. This uncritical approach to arguments presented by SITA runs through the entire Inspector’s report.

· The local community and a range of Rule 6 Parties presented extremely detailed arguments to the Inquiry. We consider that the Inspector did not give adequate consideration to these arguments.

I would be grateful if you could confirm whether you, as Corporate Director, will be willing to sanction a review of the Secretary of State’s decision with a view to challenging his ruling.

1 comment:

David Robins said...

I understand that clause 124 of the Localism Bill would give material weight to "local finance considerations" when determining a planning application. If Eric Pickles is already doing this, ahead of the required change in the law, then his decision does look suspect.