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Court ref no: CO/3338/94 ...
Court ref no: CO/3338/94

Plans for a massive waste landfill site near Cardiff have been scotched by fears that birds attracted to the site might endanger aircraft flying in and out of Cardiff/Wales aiport and a nearby RAF base.

Mr Justice Owen told London's high court he could find no flaw in former Welsh secretary John Redwood's refusal to grant planning consent for the controversial 'super-tip' scheme to Blue Circle Industries Plc.

Continuing anxieties over the 'bird-strike' threat to aviation if the company's plans went ahead made Mr Redwood's refusal 'inevitable'.

Blue Circle had wanted to infill 58 hectares of what is currently a limestone quarry off Port Road, East Aberthaw, Rhoose, with ten million cubic metres of mainly domestic waste over a 30-year period.

Food-bearing rubbish would have been tipped into the quarry at at rate of 305,000 tons-a-year, generating 358 vehicle movements every day, added the judge.

To stop pollution of an under-lying water aquifer, Blue Circle had planned to use technology pioneered in America to give the landfill site a composite polyethylene 'geomembrane' lining.

And anti-bird netting would have been used to combat aviation objections that gulls, large birds of the Jackdaw family and flocks of starlings would be attracted by the smell of putrefying waste.

But, as the site lies between Cardiff/Wales airport and the RAF St Athan's base, Mr Redwood 'called in' Blue Circle's planning application, instructing one of his inspector's to hold a public inquiry.

In October 1994, the minister accepted his inspector's recommendation that planning permission be denied for reasons of air traffic safety.

Blue Circle claimed the inspector had overestimated the 'bird-strike' threat, imposing an impossible-to-achieve target of a 'bird-free' landfill site.

The quarry already attracted some birds - which had caused no problems in the past - and planning permission already in force required the site's restoration to agriculture in a way which would be 'attractive to birds'.

But Mr Justice Owen dismissed the company's challenge, saying: 'Such were the fears and findings in respect of aviation dangers that the inspector and the Minister would inevitably have come to the same conclusion and permission would have been refused.

'The inspector heard the evidence; he was then required and entitled to make up his mind. I see no fault in his reasoning or his conclusions on this topic'.

The system of anti-bird nets proposed by Blue Circle to combat the aviation threat was 'relatively untested' and it would be 'quite inappropriate' to use it on an experimental basis given the considerable risks to air safety, he added.

'Birds are highly mobile and quick to exploit opportunities for feeding and safe roosting. In respect of bird-strike hazards the potential danger is greater the heavier the species of bird.

'If a major food source were readily available at the appeal site dawn and dusk flightlines could be generated across both RAF St Athanand Cardiff/Wales Airport and loafing gulls could be present on any adjacent airfield or the aiport'.

Bird-strike incidents could have 'severe direct consequences' for air traffic, ranging from engine failure to loss of aircraft 'with consequential catastrophic results', added the judge.

Blue Circle had its planning appeal dismissed and was ordered to pay the Welsh ministry's legal costs.

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