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Government waste plan fails to tackle planning constraints

News

ENGINEERS and planners this week criticised the government's latest waste strategy for failing to tackle funding and planning constraints now holding back development of vital new waste infrastructure.

Released last week, the strategy raised domestic recycling targets to 40% by 2010 and recommended that half of all construction waste be recycled by 2012.

But it failed to suggest changes to the funding and planning system that has traditionally held up the delivery of recycling, composting and energy from waste facilities.

'A lot of the responsibility for the targets in this strategy is handed back to the local authorities, and the increased targets will necessitate increased investment in addition to what is already needed, ' said ICE waste board chairman Nigel Mattravers.

Infrastructure is usually funded via the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) and the securing of private investment has traditionally proved difficult for local authorities.

County Surveyors Society (CSS) waste committee chairman David Harvey said: 'Government must not underestimate the scale of what lies ahead and must recognise that real progress will be impossible unless it makes good the serious current shortfall in capital and revenue investment.' The planning process was also offered little improvement by the strategy, as it failed to commit waste facilities to be included within the national policy statements. These statements will guide the fast-tracking of new infrastructure under proposed changes to the planning system (News last week).

Instead, the strategy maintained government's current position that regional spatial strategies and local development plans should identify key waste infrastructure, and these guide planning consent by local planning authorities.

Environmental Services Association chief executive Dirk Hazell said: 'Billions of pounds need to be spent on new recycling infrastructure.

'Virtually none of this will be large enough to be considered by the Government's proposed independent planning commission.

'It is therefore essential that the national policy statements on planning proposed by the Government promptly complement the Waste Strategy by helping councils to assess appropriate types and scales of this infrastructure when considering planning applications.' Mattravers added that one of the key developments of the strategy was that the government for the first time unambiguously backed energy from waste schemes.

It set a target of 25% of municipal waste to be converted to energy by 2020 although this is less than the target of 34% by 2015 conceived in the 2000 Waste Strategy.

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