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Campaign Group Succeeds in Derailing Recycling Plant Expansion Plans

Planning decisions often have a huge impact on communities and, with the benefit of professional advice, local campaign groups can have a decisive say in the process. In a case on point, one such group succeeded in derailing plans to extend the life of a waste recycling plant and to greatly expand the facility.

The relevant site was already home to a large recycling centre, measuring almost 2,000 square metres, for which planning permission had been granted in 1997. That consent was, however, only temporary and required the building’s removal, and the site’s restoration, by December 2016.

In a pre-emptive move, the company that ran the facility sought a fresh consent in 2014, enabling it to both keep and extend the existing building. The proposed extension would cover an extra 3,770 square metres, making 5,760 square metres in all. The facility would handle up to 119,000 tonnes of municipal and green waste per annum.

Local people, who were particularly concerned by the prospect of greatly increased lorry movements to and from the site, took legal advice and incorporated a campaign group to fight the proposals. The local authority refused permission, but the consent that the company sought was subsequently granted by a government planning inspector following a public inquiry.

After the campaign group mounted a judicial review challenge to that decision, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government conceded that the inspector had erred. The company, however, fought to keep its permission alive and urged the High Court not to intervene. It argued that, even if refused permission, it would be entitled to keep the facility open. Permanent planning consents in respect of other parts of the site would have the effect of enabling it to retain the building and put it to a significant number of uses.

In upholding the campaign group’s arguments, however, the Court found that the inspector had committed a momentary slip and had failed to give proper consideration to the limits of the existing consents. Although his decision was otherwise rational, the Secretary of State had been right to concede the point.

The planning permission was overturned and the Court directed the Secretary of State to consider the matter afresh. It noted that the adequacy of the environmental statement in respect of the site would also have to be looked at again.

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