Bristol takes waste plant fight to High Court

Bristol City Council has launched a High Court challenge against communities secretary Eric Pickles' grant of planning consent for an energy from waste plant at Avonmouth.

The council is asking Mr Justice Collins in London to quash Pickles’ decision to give the go-ahead for the facility at Severn Road, Avonmouth, in April, and order him to have the matter reconsidered.

It claims that the facility – which would process 350,000 tonnes of waste a year to provide electricity for the National Grid – will lead to an over-concentration of waste recovery in the Avonmouth area, and lead to excessive traffic.

It says that, under the West of England Partnership’s joint waste core strategy, Area A, in which Avonmouth falls, has an "indicated capacity" of 390,000 tonnes per year, and that current facilities already handle 332,000.

And it argues that Pickles erred by giving too much weight to the possibility that the facility could ultimately be capable of providing combined heat and power (CHP) in the future. CHP could be used to heat industry, hospitals, schools, local authority housing or large commercial premises in the area, but would require pipework to be installed to connect the facility.

The council says that the environmental statement on which Pickles relied did not assess the likely significant environmental effects of CHP pipework being installed, and that he was wrong to find that the development would be in accordance with national and regional planning policy.

It is also challenging the secretary of state’s decision to order it to pay the costs incurred by Viridor at a public inquiry into the planning application, arguing that he acted irrationally in concluding that the council had behaved unreasonably in refusing to grant planning permission.

However, the decision is being defended by lawyers for Pickles and Viridor. Viridor argues that the council never challenged the environmental statement at the public inquiry, and that the "indicated capacity" in the waste core strategy was not intended as a cap on treatment capacity for any one area. It says that the objectives of the strategy would in fact be exceeded by diverting more waste to the facility and away from landfill.

The judge is expected to reserve his decision tomorrow in order to give it in writing at a later date.

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