DC Casebook: In depth - Waste disposal scheme rejected due to impact on wildlife habitat

A waste disposal site proposed in the Essex green belt has been rejected on the grounds that it would prejudice the retention and management of an important wildlife habitat.

The site comprised a former gravel quarry set 5m to 6m below the level of a road. The appellants proposed to clear the quarry floor of trees and vegetation and deposit 180,000 tonnes of inert material up to 2m above current ground levels. The inspector reasoned that the tipping would leave most of the area below the original levels and so would not harm the openness of the green belt. It would not constitute inappropriate development, she decided.

However, the land was part of a local wildlife site. Its main biodiversity interest lay in the disturbed habitats of the quarry sides and floor that had come about through unauthorised use by bikers and off-roaders. It was especially important for species associated with bare and disturbed ground including three UK biodiversity action plan species - the hornet robber fly, the solitary wasp and the brown-banded carder bee.

The appellants explained that the proposed works would result in 63.5 per cent of the site being given over to agriculture. The remaining 36.5 per cent would be managed to sustain and enhance its biodiversity interest. They argued that this would represent a larger area suited to the species of interest than currently available.

The inspector noted that a single-phase operation would be needed to carry out the work, given the constraints on time and lorry movements resulting from restoration of a waste recycling facility owned by the appellants on the opposite side of the road. The proposal would result in the destruction of most of the habitat of the existing species of interest and their long-term re-establishment on the site would not necessarily be secured, she decided.

She noted that there was still capacity at the nearby site and that its restoration would be put on hold if the appeal proposal were implemented. She reasoned that spare capacity at the existing site should be used before a new site was opened, especially one in such close proximity. In her view, it had not been shown that the development could not reasonably be located on an alternative site that would result in less or no harm, as required by PPS9.

Inspector: Isobel McCretton; Inquiry

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