Energy plant rejected due to highway safety issue

Unacceptable highways impacts have led the secretary of state to refuse permission for an energy recovery facility at a Hertfordshire business park, against an inspector's recommendation.

The facility was intended to treat municipal, commercial, healthcare and industrial wastes. Ancillary infrastructure, including highways improvements, was also proposed. The secretary of state agreed with his inspector that the proposed location was policy compliant, that no suitable or available alternative sites had been identified and that an urgent and pressing need for the facility had been demonstrated, in accordance with local and national waste treatment strategies that carried substantial weight. He further agreed that the long-awaited facility would help meet the need for renewable low-carbon energy and would lead to climate change benefits, again attracting substantial weight.

However, he disagreed with the inspector’s assessment of the scheme’s highway impacts, which she regarded as not ideal but acceptable. The difference of opinion related to the need for heavy goods vehicles to use very narrow lanes to access the appeal site. Parts of these lanes were in private ownership and were not public highways. In this light, the inspector opined that safety issues for walkers and cyclists had to be considered acceptable.

The secretary of state totally disagreed. He held that, whether a road is private or public, the safety aspects of a proposal still needed to be considered. The potential for conflict between HGVs and pedestrians or cyclists was an unacceptable impact in terms of paragraph 109 of the NPPF, he decided. This objection, along with visual and landscape impact concerns, ultimately tipped the balance against approval. 

Inspector: Jennifer Vyse; Inquiry


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