Waste recycling and AD facility unacceptable in green belt

A materials recycling and anaerobic digestion facility at a former mineral extraction site in the Buckinghamshire green belt was refused for harm from inappropriateness and loss of openness with no very special circumstances to outweigh these and other harms.

The proposal comprised a commercial and industrial waste material recycling facility, an anaerobic digestor and the permanent retention of the existing construction waste recycling operation, at a 28-hectare site which lay within a 145-hectare former mineral extraction site. The appellant had argued there was an urgent need for the proposed facilities and a lack of suitable alternative sites, alongside benefits arising from the production of 1.5 MW of renewable energy, early site restoration and 48 full-time equivalent employees, and that these factors amounted to very special circumstances warranting development in the green belt. In assessing the harm from the proposal on openness, the inspector accepted there was no visual impact as the site was well screened but that significant harm would result from the spatial and volumetric impact of the facility buildings, weighbridge, stockpiles, along with activity generated by vehicles, including parking for refuse vehicles. He also opined the proposal would result in conflict with the purposes of designating green belts including preventing encroachment into the countryside and encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land. 

In terms of the appellant’s arguments for the location of the proposal, the inspector did not feel that they had given adequate consideration to the possibility of using existing employment sites in the area in their alternative site assessment. Neither did he think there was an urgent need for such a scale of facilities in this part of the county as future growth areas were planned to take place in a different part. The inspector did accept that the movement of waste treatment up the hierarchy was a benefit weighing in favour of the scheme. But in the harms-benefits balance, the inspector held the harms to the green belt identified were already greater than the benefits even before adding the moderate to major harm to the landscape character of the area he also identified. The inspector also concluded there were no grounds for issuing a split decision which omitted the existing temporary construction waste recycling part of the proposal as the proposed development, in either its full or partial form, would conflict with the adopted development plan, and would not gain support from the NPPF or the NPPW.

Inspector: John Woolcock; Inquiry

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