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ONE LANDFILL SITE LEGAL CASE CRUCIAL TO NATIONAL WASTE MANAGEMENT POLICY

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Plans for a massive landfill site on the outskirts of an old Derbyshire mining village were today at the centre of ...
Plans for a massive landfill site on the outskirts of an old Derbyshire mining village were today at the centre of an Appeal Court test case with crucial implications for national waste management policy.

Disabled campaigner John Blewett is implaccably opposed to proposals for the landfill near Glapwell, just 800 metres from his home, and is being backed in court by green pressure group Friends of the Earth.

But ranged against him on the other side of the dispute is the company behind the landfill scheme - Derbyshire Waste Ltd - and the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs .

Mr Blewett, who lives in Bramley Vale, won a landmark victory last year when High Court judge, Mr Justice Sullivan, overturned Derbyshire CC's decision to grant planning consent for the scheme.

But DWL is now challenging the decision in the Appeal Court in a case which raises vital issues of principle for the waste management industry, local planning authorities, environmentalists and others.

It is not the first time Glapwell has been the subject of a controversial landfill scheme: 'voids' known as 'Glapwell 1' and 'Glapwell 2' left by old mining works have been filled with vast quantitites of waste since 1983, but the tipping stopped in November 2002.

Now Mr Blewett and other local residents are up in arms over plans to open 'Glapwell 3' where DWL proposes to tip 850,000 cubic metres of waste over a four-year period.

The entire scheme, covering an area of nine hectares and including land restoration work, is expected to take six years to complete.

Mr Blewett says his health and quality of life have already suffered from the past landfill schemes:

He says his chronic bronchitis, asthma and angina have been worsened and also complains of noise and the plague of seagulls and rats infesting the site. Some of his pet pigeons have been killed by vermin.

However, DWL's counsel, M r Christopher Katkowski, today argued that Mr Justice Sullivan had misinterpreted environmental protection laws when he upheld Mr Blewett's judicial review challenge in November last year.

He said the judge had been wrong to find that the council was obliged to refuse planning permission unless it was satisfied the landfill was the 'Best Practicable Environmental Option'.

He argued Mr Justice Sullivan had been wrong to rule the council could only grant consent if the scheme was 'in line with' the government's national waste policy, known as 'Waste Strategy 2000'.

The policy was designed to introduce into English law the EU Landfill Directive in which the BPEO principle is enshrined.

Mr Katkowski said the judge's ruling meant consent for landfill sites had to be refused unless they were 'in conformity with' the BPEO principle, 'regardless of any other considerations, however compelling they may be'.

Margaret Beckett is playing a part in the case because of its national importance and her counsel, Mr James Maurici, supported DWL's plea that Mr Justice Sullivan's ruling went too far.

However, Mr David Wolfe, for Mr Blewett, insisted the judge had been right to quash the planning permission.

He said landfill sites were generally accepted to be at 'the bottom of the waste heirarchy' in environmental terms and it made 'obvious common sense' that they should be 'avoided if possible' and should only be allowed if they represent the BEPO.

His arguments were backed by Dr Anna Watson, a waste and resources campaigner for Friends of the Earth, who have been allowed to play a part in the case because of its environmental implications.

In a witness statement, Dr Watson said Friends of the Earth considered the case of 'considerable importance' in terms of the correct interpretation of national waste management policies.

She said Mr Justice Sullivan had been right to rule that assessments of whether a landfill site is the BEPO are of 'real and demonstrable val ue' and a 'mandatory process in waste planning decisions.'

Dr Watson said the majority of the 400 million tonnes of waste produced in England and Wales each year is still sent to landfill, although it is 'at the bottom end of the waste heirarchy' due to the impact landfill sites have on the environment and communities.

She said the BPEO requirement was a 'cornerstone' of national waste policy and treating it as anything other than mandatory would water down the Landfill Directive's objective of reducing national reliance on landfill schemes.

She told the court that, amongst other things, landfill sites exacerbate climate change, are a major source of methane - a potent greenhouse gas - can pollute rivers, streams and groundwaters and cause serious nuisance to those who live nearby them.

The hearing before Lord Justice Auld, Lord Justice Buxton and Lord Justice Laws continues and is expected to last two days.

Given the complexity and national importance of the case, the judges will almost certainly reserve their decision until a later date.

STRAND NEWS SERVICE

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