Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180
TUESDAY 31 OCTOBER 2000
180. That was a figure which was questioned
by the first set of witnesses. I do not think you heard that bit
of evidence but what was being said was that that really was a
nonsense, that actually it was a statistical problem, that what
used to be trade waste was being smuggled into civic community
sites and things like that and there was not the evidence for
a big increase. Do you think the 3 per cent can be justified?
(Mr Price) My response to that would be that I work
in a county where it is growing at 6 per cent.
181. Is that 6 per cent going through household
wheelie-bins or dustbins or black bags?
(Mr Price) That is right.
182. So that is a straight measurement of what
is coming out of households?
(Mr Price) But that is peculiar to our demography,
Chairman. We happen to be a county where the population is growing
at a faster rate than normal
183. What I was asking you was, per individual,
per household, the amount of waste is increasing by 6 per cent?
(Mr Price) No, that is not what I said.
184. How much is it increasing per person?
(Mr Price) I would have to find that information for
185. You say in your evidence that it is desirable
that waste management strategy should cover all the waste and
not just municipal waste, can you tell us why you think that is
not happening sufficiently at the moment?
(Mr Price) I think the derivation of that is that
waste management is interpreted in this country as substantially
being about household waste, and indeed municipal waste is used
as the term to cover largely what I believe is household waste.
It derives from the imperative back in the last century of public
health legislation through to environmental protection legislation
these days, which is that dustbins need to be dealt with on a
daily basis. The fact is that it is only a quarter of the waste
for which waste management facilities and planning permissions
for them are required.
186. So what in your view would be the right
regulatory structure to allow us to take an overall view of all
types of waste?
(Mr Price) In terms of planning regulation? The Environment
Agency obviously has the licensing responsibilities in relation
to all facilities. As far as planning is concerned, all facilities
need planning consent and they are therefore subject to consultative
approval or otherwise processes and planning enforcement regimes.
187. So are you saying any change is required
in order to allow this coherent over-view?
(Mr Price) The difficulty is looking at the planning
side of the equation and having the information to be able to
do it. There has long been a problem with information for waste
planning purposes, it is better on household waste than any other
area and we await the strategic waste management assessments,
but without this essential information it is very difficult for
local planning authorities effectively to plan for what is required.
(Mr Hockney) We have consistently said as a Society
that, yes, we recognise our responsibilities for waste policy
planning and in order to produce waste local plans or waste policies
which go into unitary plans we need an overall waste context for
the specific area for which the waste local plan is being prepared.
It is very difficult to prepare a waste local plan in a vacuum.
The waste local plan is a land-use manifestation of a broader
waste management strategy for that particular geographical area.
Those strategies do not exist. The requirement to produce a waste
management strategy under earlier legislation was abolished in
1995 in the Environment Act 1995. In many ways, possibly somewhat
cynically, planners now see Government advising local authorities
to produce municipal waste management strategies almost as a fall
back, a desire to actually go back and produce some form of waste
management strategy for a local authority area which will also
assist in the production of a waste local plan.
188. What role will the Regional Technical Advisory
Bodies have in this process, just briefly?
(Mr Price) It is very difficult to give a brief answer
to that one.
189. Perhaps we could come back to that a little
bit later, if that is all right. Can I just pursue with you the
question of the Landfill Tax. That was supposed to make landfill
more difficult but there is some element that the Credit Scheme
has been bribing local communities to be more willing to accept
landfill. Do you think that the Credit Scheme is not working in
the way that it should be?
(Mr Price) I think we could express quite a bit of
opinion on this one. If I can interpret your question as relating
to is it making a difference in terms of does it make the planning
process easier by reducing opposition, there may be some evidence
in some places that that is the case. I think they are probably
quite few and far between. The reality is, as we said at the start,
waste developments are almost universally unpopular and even though
a community may have seen some benefit in some way during the
currency of the landfill, whether that is viewed as being something
that outweighs the disadvantage or the perceived disadvantage
of living next door to a waste management facility is perhaps
190. What about sham recovery?
(Mr Price) I am sorry, Chairman?
191. What about sham recovery, is that a problem?
Are people actually fiddling the system?
(Mr Hockney) In terms of diverting waste from landfill
to develop recreational facilities, golf courses or other sorts
of facilities, which I am sure Members of the Committee have heard
of, there has been an element of that which has been going on.
We have been active in the Society in particularly informing district
councils, who determine many of the planning applications which
are made in Britain, to ensure that when they are examining planning
applications which involve a change in ground levels that they
look very carefully at those plans and impose the requisite conditions
about contours or ground levels in order to control the importation
of any material on to the site. There have been examples, and
you may personally know them yourself, where because of the absence
of appropriate planning conditions it has been possible to import
waste on to sites and use it to raise levels and there has been
some difficulty through the planning system in enforcing against
that sort of activity.
(Mr Price) Was that the burden of your question?
192. Yes, I think that is it. What you are really
saying is if you are going to have permission for a new golf course
you have got to lay down very specifically in the planning process
the contours that are going to be accepted so it does not just
get higher and higher and higher.
(Mr Price) A lot of inert waste has gone on to a lot
of sites all around the country as a Landfill Tax avoidance measure.
193. And that needs stopping. What about things
like newspaper waste that can be spread and ploughed in, does
that need to be regulated?
(Mr Hockney) My understanding, Chairman, and you may
wish to correct me on this, is that through the planning regime
it is unlikely that would need planning permission. I think what
we are addressing here is land spreading which is exempt from
the site licensing regulations which are administered by the Environment
Agency. Subject, again, to the particular proposal that you might
have in mind, it may well be that there is very little planning
control over that sort of activity. It may well relate to the
scale of the operation and to the level of importation.
194. Is that an area in which you think the
law needs changing?
(Mr Hockney) Definitely yes, Chairman.
195. I want to come back to the issue of shadow
planning. Is it possible for an authority to shadow plan an incineration
facility just in case it is needed whilst they attempt to meet
the much higher recycling targets? In other words, is there a
case for the planning process being able to say if we do not achieve
a recycling target of 50 per cent there will be a need for an
incinerator and that incinerator should therefore be planned,
but if it was clear to the public that the whole community achieved
the recycling target, at whatever level, that incinerator would
not be needed?
(Mr Price) I do think that it would be very difficult
to do that, Chairman. My earlier answer to a question I had not
completed but what I was going to say was by 2020 the amount of
material that may be landfill based on the proportion of the 1995
levels is really quite small in relation to what has to be handled
even if we were to push, as is now being asked, more successful
authorities up to, say, 40 per cent. Were we to achieve something
like that level nationally by 2020 there would still be a huge
196. I understand the global case you are making,
I am asking about the specific case of a local authority saying
that in the plans they have is it possible for them to shadow
plan a major plant like an incineration facility with various
assumptions built into it?
(Mr Price) I do not think an authority should plan
for failure, which is what that implies, and I do not think that
an authority should be anything less than open and honest with
(Mr Hockney) I would wish to underline that, Chairman.
The issue of waste is a highly sensitive local issue. The message
that I and my colleagues put down the line to any applicant for
planning permission, as I said in an earlier statement, is one
of openness and transparency with the local community. To suggest
that there may be one potential solution but say to the community
"but we are looking at others as well", whilst done
in the best of interests could easily be misinterpreted by concerned
members of the local community or action groups.
(Mr Price) Local authorities will have to meet recycling
and composting targets. They may fail, of course, but that is
the objective that is being set for them. I am sure that you will
find local authorities wanting to respond to that.
197. Thirty-five per cent, with respect, is
a great deal lower than is being achieved elsewhere in the world.
If you are making it clear to a local community that they are
going to get an incinerator if they cannot meet recycling targets
that are quite challenging and require everyone's co-operation
and investment in it of 50-60 per cent, for example, surely that
is a better way to go?
(Mr Price) I do think it is important for accurate
information to be available. What is being achieved in recycling
and composting in different parts of the world is not all that
it is claimed to be necessarily and it is important that we understand
the statistical basis on which they are calculated. In very small
local communities undoubtedly some very high figures have been
achieved but I think if you look at broader picture issues, such
as what is being achieved in other European countries or in parts
of North America, whilst we lag seriously behind as a nation what
is being achieved by those, even if we were to achieve the targets
that have been set for us there would be a huge gap between what
we may landfill and what we may not.
Mr Blunt: If they can achieve 59 per cent in
Flanders, I do not see why we cannot here.
198. Waste disposal authorities have to consider
two things. They have to consider cost and they have to consider
land use planning. In terms of cost, do you think it would be
more democratic, open and transparent to consult the public, or
tell the public, what it might cost for initial capital outlay
to do kerbside collection, waste separation at source and so on
and so forth, as opposed to mixed municipal waste going into incineration
and what those initial costs might be to them and what they are
longer term, so that you could actually present the members of
the public with all these revenue costs and the capital costs
something like 20 years on? That is one part of it because that
is significant. You all do it, you are all thinking of costs,
and certainly councillors are. On the other hand, land-use planning
does not look at that. I have two questions there. Do you think
PPG 10 is adequate for local authorities in assisting them to
implement the strategy?
(Mr Price) There are a lot of questions involved in
Christine Butler: Basically two.
199. I want a short answer!
(Mr Price) I cannot give you that, Chairman, but I
will be brief. Costs first. Waste disposal and collection costs
in this country are incredibly cheap. In my authority, which has
quite an advanced set of processes with a very high recycling
and composting figure in particular, we charge the ratepayer £1
a week approximately, £1.16 a week. That is a ludicrously
cheap service in my view for what is provided. We are going to
have to contemplate much more expensive methods and people must
be confronted with the real costs as part of the information which
they also need to have on what options are available and what
are the environmental and other impacts of that and whether we
would be able to achieve compliance with Government and European
requirements. In relation to PPG 10, the Planning Officers Society
has been very closely involved in the consultative processes,
the very drawn-out consultative processes which led to it, and
we welcomed it of course, but we do have disappointments in it.
We find it weak and brief, particularly in terms of the advice
which is given on options and the impacts which may be associated
with options. It is also weak in the role which it gives to and
expects of Regional Technical Advisory Bodies, which are at the
end of the day entirely voluntary, not co-ordinated, not funded
and are advising the non-executive regional planning bodies.