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'We don't want rubbish from Wales!' Councillors reject Telford landfill extension

Controversial plans to extend the life of a controversial Telford waste landfill site by five years have been rejected by councillors.

The fire at the recycling plant. Picture: @SFRS_JBainbr
The fire at the recycling plant. Picture: @SFRS_JBainbr

Planning officials at Telford & Wrekin Council who had strongly backed Potters Group plans to keep burying Granville Landfill site, off Grange Lane, Redhill, until December 31, 2030, were left scratching their heads after the decision.

The area was the scene of a massive fire in September 2020 when 50 firefighters battled a blaze that affected the entire landfill site near the A5.

Some councillors brought up a dislike of rubbish being brought over from Welshpool, in "another country" and even raised the spectre of the Aberfan colliery tip disaster in 1966 which killed 116 children and 28 adults.

Councillor Jim Loveridge (Lab, Brookside) said the council risked "creating another Aberfan disaster of its type." The committee heard that the tip is being built up in blocks and water does run through the site.

But committee chairman Councillor Charles Smith (Lab, Wrockwardine Wood and Trench) said the plans did not amount to the same thing as Aberfan.

"It is not the same thing," said Councillor Smith. "We now have the Environment Agency, which did not exist then."

Planning officers said that the site is controlled by the Environment Agency, and filling the site should be allowed because there is a plan to return it to nature. Officers say that not finishing it off could cause more problems.

The meeting heard that the company, Potters Group in Welshpool, take waste from all over country, including Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin. They try to see if it can be recycled, but if it can't it is sent to Redhill and buried.

Councillor Jayne Greenaway (Cons, Horsehay and Lightmoor) didn't like the fact that rubbish is being brought over from Powys.

"We don't have to provide it for another country," she said.

"My problem is bringing it in from Powys. I don't feel we should provide it for another country. They must provide it for themselves as far as I am concerned."

Councillor Bob Wennington (Lab, Dawley and Aqueduct) said it was the "first time" he had "heard Wales referred to as a country. It is not, it's a Principality."

But he wanted to see Potters finish off the site by 2025, and then come back if they needed more time. Council officers said this did not leave enough time for commercial contracts to be arranged.

The committee heard that all councils have a duty to co-operate with others over the provision of landfill.

One officer told the elected members that even in Telford & Wrekin they can't recycle everything and some waste still has to be buried in the ground. The council even sends some waste to Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton to waste to energy plants, members were told.

One planner said: "Zero waste to landfill is not yet and achievable goal."

Councillor Kuldip Sahota (Lab, Malinslee and Dawley Bank) said: "I wish we did not produce rubbish at home, but we all produce rubbish. It is a necessary evil and when it comes to landfill sites we all produce rubbish."

But Councillor Sahota's case was overwhelmed by speaker after speaker against the plan at Wednesday night's meeting.

A statement was read out from ward councillor Veronica Fletcher (Cons, Priorslee) who claimed the committee would "blight the lives of residents for another five years."

Councillor Lisa Dugmore, of Donnington & Muxton Parish Council, said: "It doesn't make sense to import other people's waste. Reasons for needing this landfill site decrease all the time. A primary school is being built next to it and we strongly oppose that."

Officers said councillors had approved new homes being built there in the full light of the landfill site being there.

Ward councillor Adrian Lawrence (Cons, Muxton) said people have been making life choices, such as buying houses, on the basis that the landfill would be used up by 2025, not 2030.

Councillor Lawrence said it was time for a "line in the sand" or it could go "on and on and on" even after 2030.

The meeting was told that the site pays landfill tax that is spent on local projects, and operates under a strict Environment Agency permit.

But Councillor Nigel Dugmore (Cons, Muxton) said: "We are not NIMBIES. We've played our part and I think enough is enough."

And Councillor Peter Scott (Ind, Newport North and West) said he thought bringing in an argument about landfill tax "comes over to me as a bribe."

Plans for the extension of the site's life met with such a barrage of opposition that a meeting of Telford & Wrekin Council's planning committee on June 1 decided to defer it to allow councillors' questions to be answered.

But Wednesday's meeting proved just as controversial.

And members voted against a recommendation to approve.

Council rules mean they have to vote again to refuse it, adding their good planning reasons.

It could be important if the company appeals the decision, with council taxes being on the line if an inspector decides that reasons are flimsy. Telford & Wrekin Council may be forced to dip into taxpayer funds if costs are awarded against it.

There was some backwards and forwards as officers and councillors discussed technicalities.

A suggestion that it was against council carbon policies was rejected when the committee was told that the landfill site is supported by their own local plan.

And they could not argue that the restoration plan was not fit for purpose when it had already been approved and is dependent on the site being filled up.

In the end they settled on another five years having a big impact on the amenity of future and current residents. A housing development of 450 dwellings is currently under construction by Vistry Homes and the landfill site is close to Granville Country Park.

But they could not use any fears about the impact on health, because that is something controlled by the Environment Agency and not the council, the meeting heard.

The meeting is recorded on the council's YouTube channel.

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