Communities and Local Government CommitteeWritten evidence from the Environmental Services Association

1. The Environmental Services Association (ESA) is the trade association representing the UK’s waste and secondary resource industry, which is leading the transformation of how the UK’s waste is managed. An industry with an annual turnover of £9 billion, our Members have helped England’s recycling rate quadruple in the last 10 years and provide over a quarter of the UK’s renewable electricity.

Opening Remarks

2. Energy and material costs are expected to rise in the future as a result of climate change policy and long term trends in global demand. Increasing the recovery of energy and materials from the waste stream will therefore be the primary focus of the waste sector going forward. This will be shaped by the long term policy framework which will increasingly drive waste away from landfill and up the waste hierarchy.

3. Waste management infrastructure is clearly an essential component of sustainable development, as it enables the UK to meet its ambitious targets for recycling and renewable energy generation. However, obtaining planning permission remains the single biggest barrier to the timely delivery of this infrastructure.

4. As many as 50 new waste facilities a year until 2020—an investment of £10–20 billion in new plant and equipment—will be required to meet the UK’s obligations to divert waste from landfill.

5. Planning applications for strategic waste management infrastructure are made at significant cost and high financial risk. If the planning risk to development is too great, investment may cease to flow into the waste management sector.

6. Local authorities have tended to make poor provision towards planning for waste management, as evidenced by the fact that only 10% of the anticipated number of waste plans have been approved and are in place. We are therefore encouraged that the Government intends to make additional provision for waste planning through a review of PPS10 Planning for Sustainable Waste Management.

7. Subject to our amendments below the NPPF, together with the revised waste strategy and PPS10, should provide a robust policy framework to deliver new waste management infrastructure. However, the interface between the NPPF and PPS10 remains confused, particularly in the interim period before PPS10 is revised. In determining planning applications or preparing waste plans, it would be helpful if the Government clarified how much weight should be attached to relevant policies in NPPF and PPS10.

8. We also seek urgent assurances from the Government that planning for waste planning will not face further delays pending revisions to PPS10 and the waste strategy.

Does the NPPF give sufficient guidance to local planning authorities, the Planning Inspectorate and others, including investors and developers, while at the same time giving local communities sufficient power over planning decisions?

9. Subject to our comments below (paragraph 14) on the need for additional context on waste planning, ESA broadly welcomes the NPPF. We suggest that the following policies in particular should help to deliver key waste management infrastructure through the planning system:

the presumption in favour of sustainable development (paragraph 13);

the planning system should proactively support and meet business needs (paragraph 19);

the default answer to development should be “yes”, where the objectives of the NPPF would not be compromised (paragraph 19);

the planning system should encourage rather than restrict development of renewable energy (paragraph 19);

development of waste management infrastructure should be identified as a strategic priority for local plans (paragraph 23);

in the absence of up to date development plans, planning applications should be determined in accordance with the NPPF (paragraph 26);

local authorities should work with others to assess waste capacity and its ability to meet forecast demands (paragraph 31);

neighbourhood plans must conform with and support the strategic priorities of the local plan (paragraph 50);

the development management process should attach significant weight to the benefits of economic growth (paragraph 54);

local authorities should not refuse permission for development which promotes sustainability (paragraph 152);

planning should support the transition to the low carbon economy (paragraph 148);

planning authorities should not refuse permission for well designed infrastructure which promotes high levels of sustainability (paragraph 151); and

applicants for low carbon or renewable energy would not be required to demonstrate “need” (paragraph 153).

10. However, we suggest that the NPPF would benefit from the following amendments:

Waste Planning Policy

11. A robust and comprehensive NPPF with adequate provision towards planning for waste management is essential to guide the preparation and delivery of waste plans. Without this—as acknowledged in a letter from CLG to local authority chief executives—there is a possibility that the European Commission will resume infraction proceedings against the UK on the grounds of insufficient coverage of waste development plans in England. Of the anticipated c.90 waste development frameworks, as of July 2011, only 10% of waste plans had been approved as sound by the Planning Inspectorate.

12. We note that the NPPF includes specific references to planning for housing, minerals, communication and transport and yet largely excludes provision towards waste management, a topic that is key to achieving sustainable development.

13. The fact that development plans have tended not to identify sites/and or locational criteria for waste management facilities, coupled with the pressing need for such facilities to comply with EU and national waste management targets, provides a compelling case for the NPPF to offer robust provision towards waste planning. Cross referenced with the revised Waste Strategy and PPS10, the NPPF should set out relevant national planning policies for waste management facilities, including locational criteria to inform local planning policies and planning decisions. Such policies should enable planning authorities to identify in development plans sites and areas suitable for new or enhanced waste facilities for the waste management needs of their area.

14. The NPPF would therefore benefit from a specific section on planning for sustainable waste management which emphasises the key characteristics of the sector:

waste management facilities can contribute towards the UK’s carbon reduction targets as recycling and energy recovery produces significant carbon savings;

development plans should provide sufficient opportunities to meet the identified need for the management of all waste streams;

waste management can make a positive contribution to the development of sustainable communities and should be considered alongside other spatial planning issues, such as economic growth. Local communities should be encouraged to take greater responsibility for the waste that they produce and enable sufficient and timely provision for waste management facilities to meet the needs of their communities;

planning policies should be clear enough to provide sufficient opportunities for the provision of waste management facilities in appropriate locations, including waste disposal; and

planning policies, informed by analysis of available data and an appraisal of options should underpin the provision of new waste management capacity and its spatial distribution.

15. The Government should send a clear signal to local authorities that the NPPF is just as relevant to waste management development as other forms of development, and paragraph 7 should therefore be deleted and replaced by:

Planning for Waste and Resource Management Infrastructure

This NPPF contains references throughout to waste management, including its role in renewable and low carbon energy generation. This reflects the fact that waste management is an integral part of sustainable development, economic investment and addressing climate change.

Local authorities preparing waste plans should also have regard to planning policy published alongside the National Waste Management Plan for England which should be accorded as much weight in planning decisions as though it comprised part of this NPPF.

16. Our proposed amendment would address the risk of confusion which may arise from the current wording of paragraph 7 on the respective weight to be applied by planning authorities in considering the national waste plan, PPS10 and the NPPF.

Delivering Sustainable Development

17. As above, there must be stronger recognition in the NPPF that waste management is a key component of delivering sustainable development. Bullet point 3 of paragraph 10 should therefore aim to achieve greater consistency with PPS10, and should be amended as follows (in italics):

….to use natural resources prudently, to manage waste sustainably, and to mitigate and adapt to climate change….

Neighbourhood Planning

18. The interface between neighbourhood and local plans appears confused within the NPPF.

19. In one instance (paragraph 50) it is noted that neighbourhood plans should be in general conformity with the strategic policies of the local plan, however, later in paragraph 51 it is noted that, when a neighbourhood plan is made, the policies it contains take precedence over existing policies in the local plan for that neighbourhood, where they are in conflict.

20. ESA suggests that the NPPF better reflects the Localism Bill and clarifies that a local plan takes precedence over a neighbourhood plan.

Pre-Application Consultation

21. ESA agrees that it is important for pre-application consultation to take place on the largest and most significant development proposals, and indeed most responsible applicants seek early engagement with local authorities on this matter.

22. However, local authorities have a greater role than is suggested in paragraph 57, which should be amended as follows:

Local authorities have a key role to play in encouraging other parties to take maximum advantage of the pre-application stage. Pre-application consultation can deliver tangible benefits to local authorities, allowing time and resources to be deployed effectively, and local authorities should therefore also pro-actively engage in pre-application consultation.

23. Delayed responses from local authorities (or statutory consultees) can significantly disrupt an applicant’s efforts to engage in pre-application consultation.

Designation of Green Belts

24. PPS10 allows local authorities to make provision for sustainable waste management development within the green belt, however, the NPPF is noticeably silent on this matter.

25. PPS10 states that planning strategies should aim to protect the greenbelt but recognise the particular locational needs of some types of waste management facilities when defining detailed greenbelt boundaries.

26. The NPPF should therefore be amended to recognise that areas of greenbelt and sites designated for environmental importance need not be considered as a barrier to the development of more environmentally sustainable forms of waste management development.

27. ESA therefore suggests that sustainable waste management more suited to a non-urban environment is included within the list of development in paragraph 144.

28. Paragraph 146 should be amended (in italics) to state:

When located in the Green Belt, elements of many renewable and low carbon energy projects will comprise inappropriate development. In such cases developers will need to demonstrate very special circumstances if projects are to proceed. Such very special circumstances may include the wider environmental benefits associated with increased production of energy from renewable and low carbon sources.

29. This simple amendment would allow for greater consistency with other NPPF policies and is a better reflection of the objectives of paragraph 148.

Support the delivery of renewable and low carbon energy

30. The NPPF must acknowledge that the preparation of waste development plans which contain policies designed to promote and encourage, rather than restrict, energy from waste is essential for developing modern, sustainable waste management solutions.

31. The first bullet point of paragraph 152 should therefore be amended as follows:

32. Have a positive strategy plan to promote energy from renewable and local carbon sources, including energy from waste and deep geothermal energy.


33. Public perception of potential risk to health often forms the principal basis for objections to new waste management facilities. However, in preparing plans and determining applications planning authorities should operate on the assumption that the relevant pollution control regime would be properly enforced, and place considerable weight on official opinion. The NPPF should therefore explicitly acknowledge that modern, appropriately located, well run and well regulated waste management facilities, operated in line with current pollution control techniques and standards pose little risk to human health.

34. This would allow the NPPF to achieve consistency with relevant policies contained within the Renewable Energy National Policy Statement, the Hazardous Waste National Policy Statement, PPS10, the Waste Strategy and other relevant Government guidance (eg Health Protection Agency, 2009).


35. Given the need for a range of new waste management facilities to deliver the Government’s national targets and fulfil its obligations under EU waste law, ESA suggests that applicants for waste management infrastructure should not be required to demonstrate a quantitative or market need for their proposal.

36. A simple amendment to paragraph 153 would address this requirement.


37. As above, and in line with policy produced by other Government departments, the definition of renewable and low carbon energy should be amended to recognise the role of energy from waste in contributing towards the UK’s renewable energy targets.

Is the definition of “sustainable development” contained in the document appropriate; and is the presumption in favour of sustainable development a balanced and workable approach?

38. ESA welcomes the principle of placing the presumption in favour of sustainable development at the heart of the planning system. The requirement for local authorities to quickly approve development which accords with statutory plans, or grant permission where plans are silent or out of date places a more positive obligation on planning authorities to engage in more proactive planning.

39. However, it is unhelpful that neither the Localism Bill nor the NPPF offers a clear definition of “sustainable development”. ESA has consistently called for such a key concept to be defined and explained in primary legislation, for use by local authorities in the development plan and management process.

40. PPS10 notes that “planning authorities…should help deliver sustainable development through driving waste management up the waste hierarchy, addressing waste as a resource and looking to disposal as the last option, but one which must be adequately catered for”.

41. If the NPPF is to apply to waste management planning, it would benefit from an equally strong message, with sustainable development defined in the new waste management section, proposed above, as:

Development which helps meet national objectives and targets for waste management, resource recovery and renewable energy. Steps should be taken to move waste up the waste hierarchy with disposal as the last option, but which should nonetheless be catered for.

42. The Government is invited to note that relevant national objectives, for example those set out in the Waste Strategy, would already have been subject to a Sustainability Appraisal.

43. In the absence of a more robust definition of sustainable development, interpretation and application of the presumption in favour of sustainable development would vary considerably between local authorities across the country, potentially contravening the core planning objectives of paragraph 19.

Are the “core planning principles” clearly and appropriately expressed?

44. ESA suggests amendments (in italics) to the following bullet points of paragraph 19:

45. Bullet point 2:

Every effort should be made to identify and meet the housing, waste management, energy, business, and other development needs of an area, and respond positively to wider opportunities for growth.

46. This amendment reflects that delivery of such infrastructure has been identified as a strategic priority for inclusion within local plans (paragraph 23).

47. Bullet point 7:

…..(for example, by the development of low carbon and renewable energy).

48. This amendment achieves greater consistency with later sections of the NPPF (eg paragraph 148).

49. ESA suggests bullet point 9 is amended (in italics) as follows:

Planning policies and decisions should aim to balance local strategies to improve health and wellbeing with relevant national guidance on health.

50. This amendment simply recognises that national guidance on health may form a material planning consideration.

51. The delivery of infrastructure, such as renewable energy and waste management development, are essential for the UK’s compliance with EU Directives. ESA therefore suggests the addition of the following core planning principle:

Planning policies and decisions should enable the Government to achieve its obligations under relevant EU law.

Is the relationship between the NPPF and other national statements of planning-related policy sufficiently clear? Does the NPPF serve to integrate national planning policy across Government Departments?

52. As above, it is unclear how planning policies in the NPPF (which are noted to apply equally to planning for waste management) would interface with the retained PPS10 and the proposed revisions to PPS10 and the “National Waste Management Plan”.

53. There is scope to further integrate the NPPF with policy objectives of other Government departments. The NPPF should recognise energy from waste as a key component of the UK’s renewable energy infrastructure, as acknowledged by DECC in the recent publication of the National Policy Statement for Renewable Energy Infrastructure.

54. DECC has also published a Renewable Heat Incentive, which aims to encourage the uptake of heat generation from a range of renewable energy technologies, including energy from waste.

55. However, even where there is a demand from the manufacturing industry for heat, the planning process often limits renewable energy facilities to sites where there is no local demand for heat. There is clearly a role for the NPPF to offer more robust policies beyond that provided in paragraph 152 and we suggest that, for all new developments, planning authorities should be required to consider how renewable energy supply schemes can best be integrated with new developments in order to maximise the benefits associated with such schemes.

Does the NPPF, together with the “duty to cooperate”, provide a sufficient basis for larger-than-local strategic planning?

56. A failure by local authorities to engage in a joint approach to strategic waste planning would, at the local level, lead to duplication in resources and a disjointed approach to delivery of strategic waste infrastructure. The Government has sought to address this through provisions in the Localism Bill for a duty to co-operate in planning for sustainable development.

57. The expectation placed on local authorities to work closely together is therefore welcome, however, there are in fact no statutory provisions in the Localism Bill to compel local authorities to engage in the level of strategic planning envisaged by paragraphs 44–47. Planning authorities need only consider whether to consult and prepare a joint approach to strategic planning.

58. Furthermore, compliance with the duty would be tested by the Planning Inspectorate in examining the soundness of development plans: a rather retrospective approach to ensuring a strategic approach to planning.

59. ESA is therefore unconvinced that the new duty will adequately address the policy vacuum following the abolition of the Regional Strategies.

Are the policies contained in the NPPF sufficiently evidence-based?

60. Despite an apparent focus on housing growth as the main stimulus for planning reform, the evidence base presented in the NPPF’s Impact Assessment appears broadly sound.

September 2011

Prepared 20th December 2011