Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Is it any wonder that the people of St Dennis feel so let down?

My column in this week's Cornish Guardian unsurpisingly focuses on the latest in the incinerator battle. It is as follows:

The Appeal Court has reinstated planning permission for a massive waste incinerator at St Dennis. This comes as a massive blow to St Dennis.

I remain extremely angry at how this whole matter has been handled over the last decade and it is clear to me that the people of the China Clay Area have been failed by the main political parties, the planning system and now the legal process.

The following ten points summarise some, but not all, of the failings of the whole debacle.

1. In 2002, Cornwall County Council agreed a Waste Local Plan, which specifically included plans to construct an unpopular incinerator in the China Clay Area.

2. In 2006, the Lib Dem controlled County Council agreed the “Integrated Waste Management Contract” with SITA. The decision was opposed by the Conservatives.

3. The Contract specified the incinerator should be built near St Dennis, but the councillors gave no consideration to the merits or otherwise of the proposed site for the plant. Subsequent evidence confirms that the Council had secured an interest in the site some two years previously and was not interested in other locations.

4. The proposal for the incinerator was turned down at a Planning Committee meeting in March 2009 and SITA registered an appeal in September 2009.

5. Throughout this period, both before and after the refusal of the planning application, leading politicians from the main parties came to St Dennis to offer support to campaigners (and get their pictures in the paper). This included Cllr Alec Robertson, the leader of Conservative-led Cornwall Council, who promised local people that the Council would robustly defend the appeal.

6. By early 2010, lack of progress meant that Cornwall Council had the right to terminate the Contract. And even though, the Conservative-led administration had given the go-ahead to spend over one million pounds to defend their decision at a Public Inquiry, they refused to end the Contract or to work up a Plan B to a single centralised incinerator.

7. The planners from Cornwall Council did well at the Public Inquiry which took place between 16th March and 7th October 2010. But this proved to be a sham, with other staff from Cornwall Council preparing information to undermine the Council’s own case and Cllr Robertson writing to Eric Pickles to ask him to find in favour of SITA.

8. The Inspector, who oversaw the Public Inquiry, produced a scandalously biased report for the Secretary of State and it ignored numerous objections lodged by local people.

9. Eric Pickles granted permission for the incinerator but, in an interview with the Western Morning News, admitted he knew nothing about the case and had not even read the report.

10. Last year, local campaigners challenged the decision. It was quashed by the High Court, after a judge ruled that proper processes had not been followed. But this has now been over-ruled by the Appeal Court.

Is it any wonder that the people of St Dennis feel so let down?

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