Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Local Government Association (LGA)

  I am writing in response to the points raised by Paddy Tipping MP in the course of the oral evidence given on behalf of the LGA to the Select Committee on 1 July.

  Essentially, it has to be recognised that the successful siting of "waste" plants—whether high-temperature incinerators, landfill sites or even open-air composting sites—is difficult to achieve. There is a high level of public interest and concern in the possibility of such sites appearing in a locality.

  The LGA recognises that the Planning Green Paper is concerned first and foremost with process rather than necessarily changing a planning policy itself. In relation to waste, the proposal is in two-tier areas for county councils to retain their present responsibilities for waste (and minerals), including the preparation of a Waste Local Plan.

  In unitary areas, however, the proposed introduction of Local Development Frameworks (LDFs) would mean that there is considerable potential for closer integration of land use planning and the inclusive process of developing and agreeing a Community Strategy. This does represent a structural change, and it is one which the Association sees merit in, since it should lead to the two processes (development of Community Strategy and development of LDF) informing each other. The process should allow for issues (such as concern over proposals for waste facilities) to be considered in a more open and accountable way, with greater understanding of the issues, and hopefully a greater sense of community ownership of end-results.

  Clearly, local authorities (and the Environment Agency, for that matter) have a key role to play in ensuring that members of the public have a better grasp of the facts generally in relation to different sorts of waste plants (both in terms of overarching Government policy, and health and safety and other concerns) and with regard to proposals for particular facilities. The importance of effective public engagement should not be underestimated, and local authorities and developers both have an important role to play where waste infrastructure planning is concerned. Hertfordshire County Council, for example, has a Waste Aware campaign, which is aimed at making people in the area more aware of the actual likely impacts of new waste facilities, and of existing and emerging technologies for treatment of waste, thereby hopefully leading to a more informed consideration of proposals as part of the public consultation part of the development control process.

  As regards the question of some form of national hazardous waste management plan, it is understandable that, with changes as a result of the Landfill directive, the pending review of the Special Waste Regulations and the WEEE directive, attention should be focused on achieving a sensible national pattern of provision of hazardous waste facilities. In terms of realising such a plan, it would be important to work at regional level, through the existing regional planning processes, with the Regional Technical Advisory Boards (RTABs) playing an important role. County Councils and district councils in two-tier areas would need to be closely involved, maintaining the crucial link with the local democratic process.

Local Government Association

12 July 2002

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