(pictured with Newport Parish Council chairman Roy Hunt and Kevin Clifford)
This past week I was asked to chair a public meeting to consider the application by City Plant Ltd to vary some of the conditions in their Environment Agency (EA) permit to enable the Gilberdyke Tip to be closed, and for the landfill gases to be used to generate electricity on the site for the next 25 years or so.
“The meeting was very difficult because emotions about this site are, and have been for a long time, very high. It is probably best summed up by the phrase heard more than once, “The community feels that it has been raped by the tip operators, who now begrudgingly want to be seen to be doing the right thing as tipping of waste on the site is allegedly coming to an end”.
Many thought it was all about greed and the obscene amounts of money being made by City Plant Ltd with scant regard to the misery they have created.
Accuracy of Statements in the Application
Residents, who had read the weighty application, had noted a number of inaccuracies or to put it more bluntly untrue statements in the application. Some were aware, and made reference to the untrue statements in the 2005 application which have caused considerable problems with interpreting approvals for heights and volumes. It was clear from the meeting that it was in nobody's interest for this to recur.
It was suggested that it would be appropriate for City Plant Ltd to withdraw the application so that the document can be considered in more detail and presented back to the EA in such a way that it is at least consistent throughout, and carries no obvious errors or contradictions.
It was felt that the authors of the application may want to meet with residents so that these "anomalies" are bottomed out.
Should the company refuse, then it seems appropriate that the EA should reject the application on the basis that it is not possible to judge the application properly in its present form.
Considerable doubt was cast on how the Leachate, Surface Water and Landfill Gas would be handled on the site.
There was concern about how the landfill gases are to be dealt with over future years, the options of simply burning off the gas or using is to generate electricity were both considered. Both methods have the potential to create harm to residents and it was agreed to ask an Environment Agency scientist to come and answer residents’ concerns about harmful emissions.
Apart from the environmental concerns about how the gas is dealt with, there was a very strong feeling that any income from the generation of electricity from waste that has been unlawfully tipped should flow at least in part to the local community to try and undo the damage to the villages. This is something that will need to be handled by ERYC via a 106 agreement. There was a suggestion that a significant percentage of the gross income from electricity generation be given annually to Gilberdyke and Newport parish councils.
A working group of residents was established to look at all environmental aspects of the application, which will put together a community consultation reply and communicate concerns directly with the EA and ERYC.
Capping and Landscaping
The unanimous view of the residents who attended the meeting was that the community want a capping solution that includes trees to be planted across the flanks and plateau of the site. They would prefer to include in the mix of species to be planted on the plateau trees that can have TPO's applied to them to reduce the risk that the site could be opened up again at any point in the future.
The type of capping was also raised and discussed at length. Concern was expressed about the use of Bentonite rather than clay, and whether a Bentonite capping would adapt and not shear or pull apart due to the change of profile as the mound suffers substantial differential settlement over the ensuing years as the recently deposited waste settles by perhaps as much as 30% - whilst the oldest parts of the tip settles by as little as 5%. There were fears that if the capping is ruptured it would introduce considerable leakage of rainwater into the waste pile, causing pollution. It appears that the City Plant Ltd consultants TerraConsult may well be aware of this.
Another working group of residents was established to look at the capping and landscaping to again feed into a community consultation reply.
Conflict between EA and ERYC Approvals
It was confirmed that as well as the application to vary the permit conditions made to the EA, a retrospective planning application is to be submitted imminently to the ERYC to regularise the heights and landscaping. Concern was raised that there was a risk of the two approvals being out of synch. Because the ERYC Officers can only make recommendations to the planning committee, the position of the council can only be established by the Planning Committee. Normally planning applications are determined by the local council in liaison with the other agencies such as the EA. It was therefore suggested that the sensible route, to avoid a conflict between the two approvals, must be for the planning application be determined first and the EA permission must then agree entirely with the limits of the planning consent.