Materials recovery operation judged to be landfill operation

A claim by a company in Devon that its plans to use part of a hardrock quarry as a material recovery operation was rejected with an inspector ruling that it was tantamount to a landfill operation.

200-001-102 (Image Credit: Devon CC)
200-001-102 (Image Credit: Devon CC)

The scheme which had been recommended for approval involved processing incinerator bottom ash (IBA) aggregate, with up to 65,000 tonnes processed annually. Approximately 300,000 tonnes of dolerite would be extracted from part of the quarry and 120,000 tonnes of inert material would be imported to provide a level area including a large concrete slab for the construction of the IBA processing and storage area. The company stated that the facility was necessary in order to enable it to meet a contractual arrangement to deal with IBA waste generated within five local authority areas over the next 25 years.

The inspector identified a wide range of issues which needed to be examined. The scheme was unlikely to have an adverse impact on the character of the area and the setting of heritage assets and given the fact that mineral extraction could lawfully occur until 2042 the introduction of a recovery facility was unlikely to lead to any greater harm to the amenity of local residents.

However, the existing conditions imposed on the planning permission for the winning and working of minerals required the site to ultimately be restored for agriculture, forestry and nature conservation. Although the appellant proposed a comprehensive landscape and ecological mitigation plan, given the proximity of the site to nationally important nature conservation sites, in his opinion the site would have a much higher biodiversity value if restored under the existing minerals consent than if it were to be developed as a waste management scheme. Since the national planning policy framework sought to achieve a net increase in biodiversity this was a significant objection to the scheme.

Of equal significance was the inspector’s concern over the precise nature of the development. It involved importing a substantial amount of inert construction and development waste and while the council accepted this as part of the scheme it had attracted widespread local opposition. This would undermine the need to recycle such material and the justification for raising part of the quarry floor to provide a level base 60 metres above water above ordnance datum was not fully explained. Indeed, the design process had not considered any alternative solution and in his opinion it had not been proven that only the minimum amount of waste necessary to achieve beneficial use as a recovery operation would be imported.

It would amount to a disposal operation which would fail to move the treatment of waste up the waste hierarchy. While the scheme involved revoking the existing mineral consent which could offer some benefits to the local community in terms of blasting, traffic movements and working hours the balance lay in favour of dismissing the appeal since it would not provide a sustainable waste management scheme.

Inspector John Woolcock; Inquiry

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