19 February 2018
Chelmsford Greens have had good coverage in the Soapbox Columns in the Essex Chronicle.
The recycling theme in media coverage continued with Cllr. James Abbott being interviewed on LBC Radio about people being heavily fined for putting recycling in the wrong containers. He said we need to make it as easy as possible to recycle and that people and businesses should be rewarded for recycling, not penalised - and that the fines should be going to those who litter and fly-tip.
Essex County Council held its annual budget meeting on 13th February at County Hall in Chelmsford. The proposal as agreed was to put up its share of council tax by 4.99% – this being 2.99% of base council tax (the new maximum increase that the Government will allow before a local referendum is needed) plus 2% social care levy. Some councils are now in serious financial difficulties due to year-after-year cuts in central Government funding, increasing demands on services and a failure by the Tory Government to deliver on the promised business rate retention for councils. A few years ago Tory council leaders here in Essex were condemning authorities run by other parties (including Brighton at the time run by the Greens) for daring to increase council tax to save services from closing. Now they are having to do exactly the same thing.
But the bottom line is that services are being reduced whilst residents are paying more for them. ECC has already cut back on (amongst other things) Youth Services, Children's Centres, Mobile Libraries, School Transport and there are regular announcements about reduced bus services.
There remains a lot of uncertainty over major planning and transport decisions in mid-Essex. The A12 decision is due "in winter 17/18" – which should mean in the next 2 weeks ! There is no date yet for the A120 route announcement. Meanwhile developers are queuing up to build on even more sites in the countryside. At the first stage of the Examination into Braintree District Council's new Local Plan (and at the same time Colchester's), there was controversy over the proposed "Garden Communities" (aka new towns) along the A120. As well as major development around a number of villages and big urban extensions to the towns, there are now plans for FOUR new towns along the A120 between west of Braintree and east of Colchester, the largest being West Tey which would be bigger than Braintree is now.
Waste site application – possible decision in March ?
At the time of writing, we still do not know when the latest planning applications for the Rivenhall Airfield waste site – which is really a waste incinerator for Essex such is its scale – will be decided by Essex County Council. The earliest date now is Friday 23rd March.
As soon as the agenda is published there will be a big push to get the application "called in" for a fresh public planning inquiry.
Other campaigning being planned is a mass lobby of County Hall when we know the date for the planning committee meeting and an "Airfield Walk" – more news on both in our March newsletter.
A decade ago we helped organise previous airfield walks which were well attended, good fun and attracted a lot of press interest. Fortunately there is still a public right of way, which is hard surfaced for much of its length, that goes up to and partly round the incinerator site.
The campaign group PAIN has continued to hold a series of public meetings and fundraising events and are doing a great job in continuing with what is now a 25 year continuous opposition to a major waste facility at the site in mid-Essex. At each stage, applications have been submitted by the same company, Gent Fairhead. These applications have included a huge landfill, a "recycling plant", an "integrated" waste management plant - and currently what is in effect a huge waste incinerator with much reduced recycling elements tacked on.
PAIN has more information on their website at:
You can still object – thousands already have - the more objections, the better the chances of getting a fresh planning inquiry
just send an e-mail to: email@example.com
Quote references ESS/36/17/BTE and ESS/37/17/BTE and include your name and address.
1. When the original planning consent for the Rivenhall waste site was granted in March 2010, the then Secretary of State agreed with the Planning Inspector's report (from the 2009 Inquiry) that the stack height should be conditioned to a height of 35m above local ground level. Now the developers want a 58m high stack.
Condition 14 of the current consent states that all details of the stack, including elevations, should be submitted to the planning authority, and agreed, before commencement. The applicant agreed to this in 2009 at the Inquiry and did submit final details of the stack to ECC prior to commencement under condition 14, which was for a 35m stack. The applicants told the Inspector in 2009 that a 35m stack was the correct requirement for the plant and the Inspector covered in detail the landscape impacts of such a structure given the rural location.
Legal commencement of the development was confirmed by ECC as having taken place in early 2016, very soon after ECC granted the so–called "variation" s73 application which significantly shifted the plant operations away from recycling and towards waste incineration. At the time, Essex County Council stated that should the developer proceed to start the development prior to obtaining the necessary operating Environmental Permit from the Environment Agency (EA), they would be doing so at their own risk.
The developer did proceed and that risk was realised. Having made a legal start, the stack details should not be changed. As ECC is aware, the only reason why the applicants now seek a 58m high stack is that their first Permit application for a 35m stack to the EA was refused. The applicants therefore had to submit a second permit application, which was approved in September 2017, but that decision does not over-ride the planning conditions applying to the site.
2. The landscape impacts of the proposed 58m stack (which is the height above local ground level) have been seriously underestimated by the applicants and in places comparisons made with existing features in the local landscape are incorrect.
The applicant states that the 58m high stack might be "theoretically visible" from listed buildings and "theoretically visible within the local landscape"; that there are electricity pylons in the local area near the plant site of comparable height; and that the residual trees left from their destruction of most of the TPO woodland around the plant are 18m tall (and therefore 40m of the stack would be visible above the trees).
58m equates to approximately 190 feet, or for comparison, 20 ft taller than Nelson's Column. This would be an industrial structure widely visible across the countryside. It would be 7m wide and with a highly reflective "mirrored" metal finish.
The applicants claim that the mirrored finish will make the stack blend more into the 'sky scape'. But sky conditions can vary enormously and presumably the stack will reflect whatever the conditions are. It is unknown as to the extent that the stack will reflect the Sun, increasing its visibility as seen from distance, or artificial light at night from the plant.
The residual trees around the plant site are not typically 18m tall as claimed by the applicants. The highest of the surrounding trees may be that tall, but most are significantly lower than that, as has been measured locally. As was advised to ECC prior to the destruction of much of the TPO woodland on the site in late February 2016, the residual tree belt is thin and the plant will be visible through it for the half of the year when the leaves are down. Therefore both the plant and the stack will be much more visible both through the trees and above them than the applicant states.
Contrary to the impression given by the applicants, there are no similar solid structures in the local landscape. The nearest tall structure is the communications tower at Sheepcotes Farm Silver End, but this is an open lattice structure and is 47m tall. The proposed stack is 58m tall, a full 11m taller. The electricity pylons quoted by the applicants are actually well to the north of the site.
The photo-visualisations used by the applicants are not a fair representation of what is seen on the ground. The visualisations tend to minimise objects at distance in the landscape.
3. Other matters remain uncertain including the financial viability of the project; cumulative visual impact with proposed new roads (the A120) and extensions of the nearby quarry; the use of local roads as alternative access; and the use of the River Blackwater. In addition, ECC should not be granting consent for an industrial plant in open countryside nor for a plant that will lower local air quality both from its emissions and by generating hundreds of HGV trips per day on to the roads of Essex.
Conclusion: The application should be refused. Failing that, due to the on-going planning creep associated with this site, there should be a fresh public Planning Inquiry.