Local campaigners and pressure groups were given victory this week when, at the High Court in London Sir Ross Cranston handed down his verdict on the action brought against the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government with Hills Waste Solutions and Wiltshire Council being interested parties.
Previously the Secretary of State had written that his Inspector had "erred" and that his approval decision on Hills appeal against refusal of planning consent should be "quashed".
Hills Waste have been handling the domestic recycling and composting from Wiltshire Council for many years at the Lower Compton facility under a planning consent which expired several years ago. They were continuing to operate whilst consent for new building facilities was sought.
That consent was originally refused and then, under appeal, granted and that was the cause of much dispute from the various pressure and campaign groups which resulted in the Judicial Appeal earlier this month.
Hills have lost the Judicial Review on Grounds 2 and 5 and their planning permission for the proposed MRF/WTS at Lower Compton (previously granted by the Planning Inspector at the Appeal in February 2017) has now been quashed.
The main reason was that Counsel for Wiltshire Waste Alliance showed that Hills were originally granted planning permission(s) based on the full details of their application so that the whole permission(s) acted as a condition for the development and not just the brief details contained in the Schedule of Conditions as claimed by Hills (Ground 2 of the JR). This also meant that their Environmental Statement did not use proper baselines based on the extant permissions and so it was also rendered invalid (Ground 5). This finally disproves Hills original contention that if the existing MRF/WTS closed, then the HGV movements through Calne would actually increase so that the air quality in Calne would get worse unless their MRF/WTS application was consented.
So what happens next?
Strictly speaking there should be a new Inquiry, but as Ground 2 will not have changed, it will not be possible for Hills to show that their MRF/WTS application is environmentally acceptable. So, in my opinion, they are unlikely to pursue this route, particularly as they have submitted 5 new applications at Lower Compton. However, all 5 new applications are subject to a Traffic Management Plan that does not allow any of Hills HGVs through the centre of Calne. Instead, they will access the Lower Compton site via a new cross-link road.
So if these 5 new applications are consented by the Strategic Planning Committee (probably at their next meeting on 23rd May), this will eliminate the HGVs in Calne and should improve the air quality which is currently above legal limits. It should also greatly reduce the HGVs that use the Lower Compton entrance (and sometimes pass through Compton Bassett) but it will greatly increase the HGVs along Sandpit Lane and Derry Hill.
My thanks to Dr Peter Alberry of the Wiltshire Waste Alliance and local resident for his explanation of much of the above.
Hills have issued the following statement through Monique Hayes MCIPR, Hills Group Communications Manager which I quote in it's entirety
"Whilst we are disappointed by the Court decision we are pleased that the Court found in Hills’ favour on 3 of the 5 grounds of claim. We are grateful for the Court’s clarification that the site at Lower Compton is a Strategic Site under Wiltshire Council’s waste development plan and the activities undertaken at the site are in accordance with existing planning permissions."
"We are confident that should there be need for this application to be reconsidered with further detail by the Planning Inspectorate that the court judgement issued will not fundamentally alter the positive decision reached at the original appeal."
"However, our preferred option for the provision of waste management for the County is to deliver the plans for redevelopment of the Sands Farm facility, extension of the landfill and mineral extraction operations at Lower Compton and provision of a private internal link road to reduce traffic movements in Calne. Five planning applications in relation to this preferred option were submitted to the local planning authority in October 2017. The company notes that the Court’s judgement does not impact the planning authority’s ability to determine these applications."
"Should the plans for our preferred option be approved then we will give an undertaking not to pursue development of the planned extension at the Lower Compton Materials Recycling Facility subject to this section 288 review."
The Wiltshire Planning Committee scheduled for 18th April has been cancelled. This will mean that Jason Day will not now be presenting his Officers Report at that meeting.
The report will likely be presented now at the May Northern Area Planning Committee scheduled for 6th May. The Judicial Revue is due to be heard in London on May 1st and 2nd so the result will now be known before the next committee meeting which will itself be a material consideration in any decision.
We will of course bring you any developments as we hear of them.
Wiltshire Council have granted Green Square planning permission for a development of 13 new dwellings and the demolition of 6 existing dwellings in what was known as "Phase 1" of the development of Briar Leaze. There are, however, conditions attached which will require further approvals yet to be submitted and granted.
Green Square will now be able to obtain their licence from Natural England for the demolition and be able to provide more definite timescales for everyone about when they will start on site, the situation with the broadband, etc.
The main outstanding issue is the surface water drainage and, as the neighbouring property is still on the market and negotiations in that direction have not progressed Green Square are going to investigate other options, one of which would take a pipe along behind the Benson Village Hall, to connect into the highways drainage system in the main road. Green Square are in contact with the Benson Village Hall Committee separately on this matter.
Funding for the fibre optic infrastructure from the Hilmarton exchange to the north end of the village was conditional upon planning approval being granted. We understand the BT regional Director has been informed that BT can now roll out fibre optic to the Hilmarton end of the village now that planning has been approved.
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