A High Court judge yesterday overturned a ministerial decision to grant planning permission to a waste incinerator in Cornwall, following a long-running planning battle.
The controversial 16MW St Dennis energy from waste plant was the subject of a public inquiry earlier this year. After which communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles ruled that the project should go ahead, leading protest groups to take the battle to the High Court. High Court judge Justice Collins yesterday reversed Pickles’ decision.
Justice Collins ruled that Pickles’ decision failed to deal with questions over whether the legal requirement for an “appropriate assessment” of the project’s environmental impacts under the Habitats Regulations and EU Habitats Directive had been properly fulfilled. The Environment Agency had stated that the incinerator would have no significant environmental effects, but opposers of the project claimed that the Agency’s assessment had not fulfilled legal requirements.
Justice Collins suggested that Pickles should now pursue an appropriate assessment to make his decision again. But Cornwall Council hinted that it could encourage Pickles to appeal against the new ruling. “We understand that the treasury solicitor, acting on behalf of [Pickles], has been granted leave to appeal. The council will be pressing for an early resolution as further delays will not only extend uncertainty over this process but could prove financially disastrous for people in Cornwall,” the council said.
The energy from waste scheme — officially called the Cornwall Energy Recovery Centre (CERC) — is a core part of Cornwall Council’s £427M waste management PFI that it awarded to French environmental giant Sita in 2006. The facility is intended to handle 90% of all Cornwall’s waste.
Cornwall Council’s planning committee rejected Sita’s planning application for the incinerator in March 2009, but Sita appealed against the ruling and a planning inquiry into the scheme took place, resulting in communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles’ decision in May 2011 to let the project go ahead. Protesters then took the case to the High Court from Tuesday this week.
Cornwall Council — which supports the project — complained that each month’s delay effectively costs the council around £1M in landfill tax and haulage costs. “As a result of these additional pressures on the waste budget the council will be meeting with Sita over the next few weeks to identify a series of interim measures to reduce costs and services throughout Cornwall,” the council said.