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Materials recycling facility at Sutton Courtenay will expand

Wednesday, 05 December 2012 10:38

A load of rubbish A load of rubbish Photo: © Jane Tomlinson

While we are big supporters of recycling and reducing the amount of waste going to landfill, that doesn't mean we automatically support waste management companies in expanding their premises.

Oxfordshire County Council’s planning committee has this week approved FCC Environmental's application to increase the throughput and extend the life of the Materials Recycling Facility at Sutton Courtenay. We are very disappointed. We think that the changes that FCC Environmental will now be able to make are so significant that they should have been the subject of a full new planning application rather than being smuggled through as an amendment to existing permission. And it's not just us that thinks so - the local community and parish councils agree.

FCC Environmental say that the changes they propose are necessary to allow them to service a contract with the OCC for Residual Waste Bulking and Haulage for which they are tendering.

In May changes were approved to increase its size by 75% (3,822 square metres to 6,760 square metres). Then at the meeting earlier this month, a further application increased the life of the plant by 11 years and its throughput by almost 300% (70,000 tons to 200,000 tons a year).

Section 73 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, which allows for some amendments to existing planning permissions, was used serially to secure massive changes in the size, throughput and lifetime of the plant.

When FCC asked for the life of the MRF to be extended until 2029 to allow FCC to bid for a contract to transfer waste in bulk from the Vale and South Oxon to the Ardley incinerator,  we think that the whole thing should have been thrown out and started again as a full application.

Instead, officers recommended acceptance of increase in life and throughput based on totally different reasons (compatibility with life of the landfill site and consistency with County policy for recycling). These may or may not be good reasons, but the point is that they weren’t the reasons cited by the applicant. Crucially, this means local communities and other consultees did not get the chance to comment on them.

We think this has been a very poor use of planning process and we have written to Ian Hudspeth, Leader of the County Council, to ask him for an explanation and to ensure that Section 73 applications are not used in this way in the future.


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