Examination of Witnesses (Questions 165
TUESDAY 31 OCTOBER 2000
165. Welcome to the final session. Can I ask
you to identify yourselves for the record please?
(Mr Hockney) Good morning, Chairman.
My name is Roger Hockney, I am Assistant Director of Environmental
Planning in the Planning and Transportation Department of Leicestershire
County Council. I am here today as the Chairman of the Planning
Officers Society's Waste Planning Advisory Group.
(Mr Price) My name is Andrew Price, Sir. I am the
Head of Planning for Dorset County Council, I am here today as
the Vice-Chairman of the Minerals and Waste Topics Group of the
Planning Officers Society.
166. Does Waste Strategy 2000 give you the lead
you need on waste issues? Does it give you the guidance you need?
(Mr Hockney) The Planning Officers Society certainly
welcome the National Waste Strategy and see it as an important
step in the right direction in terms of dealing with sustainable
waste management in Great Britain, however, we believe that it
does not give a clear policy guide to planning officers when they
are seeking to make recommendations to their members about planning
applications. We have to deal with planning applications, Chairman,
and the bottom line, as far as the Planning Officers Society is
concerned, is the determination of those applications and the
desire to ensure where they conform with planning guidance those
applications are granted permission. We do not believe, as it
is written at the moment, the National Waste Strategy sets out
clear and detailed enough guidance for planning officers in determining
planning applications. We believe the Government really needs
to come clean in quite clearly specifying the implications of
the National Waste Strategy in terms of the types of facilities
that will be needed to meet the waste reduction targets which
(Mr Price) The planning system of course has two parts,
one is making development planning policy and the other part is
development control. The development plans process, I would argue,
is a very important part of that. The Landfill Directive has been
signed by this Government, there are inevitably major changes
to current waste management practice which must be introduced,
and there will be a lot of implications for new forms of development.
There is a lack of clarity, in our view, in the strategy as it
is presently framed on how this country is to move towards the
changes that must come, how the requirements of the Directive
will be implemented.
167. Can I just ask you whether you have taken
up your concerns with the Government? Have you documented the
(Mr Hockney) Yes, Chairman. The Planning Officers
Society both advises the Local Government Association and, of
course, the Association has its own dialogue with Government,
and those concerns have been expressed by the Planning Officers
Society to the Local Government Association. Indeed, there are
a number of very valuable officer working groups between representatives
of the Planning Officers Society and officers of Government, particularly
of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions,
where we seek to convey our concerns and help civil servants from
DETR to understand the practical issues related to the implementation
of Government policy.
168. You will be aware that the Government's
attitude towards incineration has shifted from the draft to the
Waste Strategy 2000 document. Has this made your life easier or
harder in terms of knowing how to assess and how to qualify applications
for incineration, for instance?
(Mr Price) I think planning officers view incineration
as one part of what will be required in terms of integrated waste
management. Those of us who have been actively engaged in trying
to prepare waste management strategy work on a non-statutory basis,
so there may be some proper basis for waste local planning, have
a fairly good understanding of what may be required in different
parts of the country. I suspect that there will not be huge differences
between areas, other than from their particular types or characteristics.
Incineration certainly must be a part of any integrated waste
management strategy and it is crucially important that there should
be unambiguous guidance on all options, including incineration,
in my view. I think there is ambivalence and, indeed, I would
say back slipping from Making Waste Work.
(Mr Hockney) I think to add to that, Chairman, it
does make planning officers and planning committees' lives more
difficult. Again, the bottom line is the determination of a planning
application for an incinerator facility which may be the subject
of a public inquiry, through call-in or whatever. Whilst the planning
officers may seek to support that proposal, they may well not
be able to bring in defence of that support, firm Government guidance
which states categorically that incineration is supported.
169. Do you have any view whether the Government's
targets in relation to recycling, for instance, are realistic,
given the problems that are encountered when trying to gain planning
permission, not just for an incineration plant but any type of
recycling facility? We have already heard one Member say that
there will be an incineration plant in his constituency over his
dead body. He did not quite say that but that seemed to be the
clear implication. What is your response?
(Mr Price) I think it is quite right that virtually
any type of waste facilityit is the name that creates the
difficultywill attract opposition that is quite vehement
and even more so as you go up the scale of facilities. In terms
of the targets, my comment would be that they are being introduced
in a strange way with the Audit Commission best value performance
indicators in relation to recycling and composting. I hope that
they meet the full target range for the audience that ought to
be seeing those. Certainly as far as local authorities are concerned
they are put into three bands. At the lower end authorities need
to organise themselves so that they can double and then redouble
recycling by 2003 and 2005. That will be quite difficult for them.
I represent an authority which has a very high recycling performance
and I can only say that that is shaky ground to be on. We are
quite concerned that the implications are major increases in recyclable
and compostable materials coming on to undeveloped markets around
the country. I think there will be a lot of problems. As far as
the planning system is concerned, yes, of course there will be
more facilities of those types and those will be probably contentious.
170. Noting the unpopularity amongst the public
of incineration, your Society has gone on to say "recycling
and composting are no more popular with members of the public".
Have you a scale of public reaction to this? To what extent in
popularity terms does an incinerator, a recycling depot or a composting
(Mr Hockney) I think, Chairman, the situation we face
is a serious situation. Any waste management proposal that is
put before members of the public, whether it be incineration or
composting, or a waste transfer station, all raise public concerns
of one scale or another. Clearly incineration is the one that
many people have at the front of their minds but I, and my colleague
officers, have numerous examples of public concerns relating to
fairly innocuous operations, with respect, such as green composting.
171. Forgive me, but your Society is quoted
as saying "no more than" incineration. Would you like
to review that? Do you think that really is the case? If a composting
facility is going to go in a field, do you think they would raise
equal objection to an incineration plant on the edge of their
(Mr Price) In my comments I made the point there is
a difference in terms of scale and in terms of activity.
(Mr Price) The point that we have been anxious to
make to you is that it is the name "waste" that is causing
a lot of the problems. If we were to move into something that
was about resource recovery we might begin to see some change.
There is a huge requirement, in our view, for public information
and awareness to really change attitudes and minds.
173. Is it not the case though that waste disposal
authorities tend to be consulting and mooting incineration very
early on because they say there is such a long lead-in time for
an incineration proposal as opposed to MRF, materials recycling
facilities, or composting or recycling in other ways? Do you honestly
think that it would be an advantage to consult openly and well
before time with the public in terms of other types of waste management?
I am talking here of reuse, which we have not really touched on
today, recycling and composting. Quite frankly, I as a member
of the public and other people I speak to do not hear very much
from any waste disposal authority on these other issues, these
other alternatives, but we do hear a lot about looking for sites
(Mr Hockney) I think that consulting is a vitally
important element in the exercise. Early consultation, consultation
by applicants for planning permission before the application has
gone in, consultation with the local community that may or may
not be affected, to share with them the emerging thoughts of that
applicant about the proposal. I would go one step back from that
and say, as I think Andrew Price has commented, there is a major
public information education exercise required here and it really
needs to be led up front by the Government. The only parallel
that I can draw is the drink and drive campaign that is led nationally.
174. I am talking about the waste strategy for
a waste disposal authority, not a planning application, that is
rather too late. These go on for years. The question is, should
we not have more public consultation about the strategy and alternatives
to waste disposal, as well as composting, recycling and reuse,
at that stage rather than just talking about incinerators and
where they might be?
(Mr Price) Absolutely and without any question about
it, Chairman. The problem we have is that planning, with a small
P, for waste management does not exist in this country in the
way it should, in my view and in the view of my colleagues.
175. Take the case of Redhill, Redhill has a
population, if you include Reigate, of the order of 20,000 in
a county of about a million people, and it is now, through the
planning process and applications going in, going to add to the
landfill site which at the moment takes the equivalent of half
the waste of Surrey each year. It will have an incinerator which
will then mean it could take waste equivalent to the whole of
Surrey's waste every year, plus another bulking depot close by.
How should the planning process then ensure the pain is properly
spread around the community so these depots and sites are not
concentrated in one particular area?
(Mr Price) That is a very taxing question. Looking
at the county area, one should be looking to the Integrated Waste
Management Strategy I spoke of before. There will be a need for
quite a broad range of facilitieslocal recycling facilities,
civic amenity sites, transfer stationsand it is the major
treatment and disposal facilities which always attract the difficulties.
I do not think I can say more clearly one would expect to see
these things well distributed in relation to the population they
are intending to serve and on a scale appropriate to that. I think
it is difficult for me to comment on the particulars relating
to your constituency area.
176. It was really on the principle of concentration
(Mr Price) There are two principles that the planning
system is invoked to apply which are relevant to that, one of
course being proximity and the other, a more difficult concept,
regional self-sufficiency. The proximity principle is really the
point I was trying to get across in my initial reply.
177. We have been told in evidence that one
is looking at five to ten years to get planning permission for
an incinerator, is there anything which can be done to reduce
that timescale in planning terms?
(Mr Price) Five to ten years relates to the whole
process from the idea first forming in the minds of those who
are seeking to change waste management practice, through the planning
and consultation processes, to the point where sites are identified
and applications submitted, and then on towards construction,
so five to ten years is probably a realistic timescale for that
sort of major decision to be achieved.
178. One of the concerns, and we have been debating
it this morning, is whether there is a need for all this incineration
capacity depending on the success of other ways of disposing of
waste. Do you have a view on how as a community and society we
try and run those two things side-by-side?
(Mr Hockney) In the first instance, Chairman, if we
are going to ensure we bite into the targets which are set out
in the National Waste Strategy, then one line of argument is that
we need to adopt those technologies which are proven. The Planning
Officers Society have not taken a view on any particular technology
and certainly our evidence does not suggest we favour incineration
as opposed to recycling or composting, we are there to determine
those applications when they are made. The inevitability, dare
I say, of being driven down the incineration route is there if
we are to achieve the targets which have been set in the National
Waste Strategy. Research is well under way, and I am told certainly
pilot projects are soon to be in place in respect of pyrolysis
and anaerobic digestion and so on, and one would hope that work
could be done on those and perhaps further pilot projects developed,
but at the moment we are looking at proven technologies however
critical we may be of them in terms of the concern over emissions
from incinerators. So I think the view that the Planning Officers
Society would take is that in order to achieve a National Waste
Strategy composting, incineration and recycling are going to come
into play. The one which is likely to bite the most into the target
and seek to achieve it is, possibly, incineration.
179. Because you do not think we can reach the
recycling levels which would make that unnecessary?
(Mr Price) Not necessarily, Chairman. I think the
targets which are set for those authorities which are already
further ahead are very demandingbecause an increase on
high figures is difficult to achievebut overall one would
certainly hope that 25 per cent nationally would be achieved.
The dilemma comes in that national waste is certainly growing,
it is alleged to be at 3 per cent