Represented by Paul Tucker QC and Sarah Clover, both of Kings Chambers, Hills sought permanent permission, and an extension for the existing MRF to handle a proposed annual throughput of 119,000 tonnes per annum, comprising municipal solid waste, residual wastes and green waste.
Wiltshire Council, which had identified the Hills site as a waste allocation in their Local Plan, and had entered into various contracts with Hills, refused the application, but did not present any evidence to the appeal Inquiry. The appeal was vigorously resisted, however, by residents’ group Wiltshire Waste Alliance, who funded Queen’s Counsel to represent them.
The existing uses on the site, including composting, handling skip waste, a household recycling centre and landfill were the subject of a complicated planning history involving a series of permanent and temporary planning permissions. Those were all highly germane to the establishment of the planning fall-back position affecting the determination of the appeal in connection with the baseline positions against which the proposed development impacts needed to be measured.
The net increase in the flow of heavy good vehicles (HGVs) to and from the site as a result of the proposed development was a key issue of dispute in connection with road safety and air quality. An Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) had been declared in Calne.
The Inspector (B J Sims) concluded that the proposed retention and extension of the Lower Compton MRF was compliant with the land use provisions of the statutory development plan, in particular, the Wiltshire and Swindon Waste Core Strategy and the Wiltshire & Swindon Waste Site Allocations Local Plan.
The Inspector also concluded that the proposed development would generate a very small percentage increase in HGV traffic, having no material adverse impact either on traffic flow, road safety, transport sustainability or, crucially, on air quality within the Calne AQMA.
The development was also found to be visually acceptable in terms of development plan policies to protect the landscape.
The Inspector further concluded that local fear of the effects of the development together with concern that the community has already contributed sufficiently to the needs of waste management, and that the new MRF should be located closer to strategic routes, were material considerations against the appeal. However, on balance, the Inspector found that those local concerns, no matter how genuine or widely shared, could not reasonably be judged to amount to an overriding consideration in the face of legal and technical evidence that the development was in accordance with the adopted development plan and would not cause planning harm. The Inspector was influenced by the fact that the comparatively recent adoption of the WSALP, as that part of the development plan which allocates the appeal site for waste use, followed a finding of soundness at independent public examination. That process will have involved the local community in accordance with the Localism Act.
The Inspector also found that where the proposal is compliant with the development plan, there is no requirement to demonstrate a planning need for it, although there is a degree of practical need in favour of permission. The Inspector invoked Paragraph 14 of the NPPF in favour of the development, and granted permission subject to conditions.
A copy of the decision can be found here.