MPs slam DEFRA for 'ambiguous' hazardous waste policy statement

The government needs to clarify its national policy statement (NPS) for major hazardous waste infrastructure so it does not lead to costly legal disputes, according to a report by MPs.

A report published today by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee says that the draft policy contains ambiguities which could result in lengthy and expensive legal argument.

It says that the NPS needs to be amended to make clear that renewals of time-limited planning permission for existing landfill sites will continue to be dealt with under the existing regime set out in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

It also says the statement should make clear that increases in landfill void space will only be dealt with under the NPS process where the capacity of the site would be increased by more than 100,000 tonnes per annum.

The MPs also want the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to use more consistent and accurate wording in the document to describe the interaction between the Infrastructure Planning Commission, developers and consenting bodies.

"A failure to achieve legal standards of drafting in the NPS will increase the likelihood of legal challenge in the planning process, increasing costs and introducing delay," the report states.

Launching the report, committee chair Anne McIntosh warned: "Industry investment in new infrastructure is essential if the UK is to meet its obligations to dispose of hazardous waste in a more environmentally friendly way. There is a real risk that if this NPS is not amended it will actually discourage developers from investing in the infrastructure that we need."

The committee is also concerned that the policy statement is not sufficiently robust on the issue of flooding. It wants the Environment Agency be given the power to veto applications on ground of flood risk.

The MPs were also critical of the government’s engagement of the public on the shaping of the policy, with the hazardous waste NPS consultation receiving "even fewer responses" than DEFRA’s consultation on the draft Waste Water NPS.

The committee urged DEFRA to provide further opportunities for local communities to propose mitigation measures to reduce the local impact of projects.

The report is available here.

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