It's time to clear up this waste situation

For nearly eight years, a battle has raged between the villagers of Warboys and the company Fenside Waste Management which has dumped toxic waste within a mile of homes and school. The company handled hazardous waste without formal planning consent for si

For nearly eight years, a battle has raged between the villagers of Warboys and the company Fenside Waste Management which has dumped toxic waste within a mile of homes and school. The company handled hazardous waste without formal planning consent for six years. It applied for that consent retrospectively in 2004 and was refused it by Cambridgeshire County Council. Last year, the company appealed against that decision at a public inquiry. It was opposed by the villagers in the form of Warboys Landfill Action Group and Cambridgeshire County Council. After several weeks of evidence, the company withdrew its case and costs were awarded against it.The site is now inactive, apart from a recycling operation. However, at the end of last year, the company said it would take its case to the High Court. If it has the money to do that, says the action group, when are the company's opponents going to see their costs? Comment by JOHN DENNIS, chairman of Warboys Landfill Action Group.Warboys Landfill Action Group believes that it is in the interest of our village that we comment on some of the statements attributed to John Jones, operations director of Fenside Waste Management Limited, on the landfill site at Puddock Hill in Warboys in The Hunts Post of November 16. He said the company was "confident of proving" that it already had planning consent for the Station Road site at Puddock Hill.We have never argued that the company held a valid planning permission to deposit inert waste from the start of operations until July 16 2004 when the European Directive banning the deposit of mixed waste came into force. It is only the permission for hazardous waste that is an issue.However, the only body which carries the necessary authority to grant permission for the change, so as to allow the deposit of hazardous material at Warboys, is Cambridgeshire County Council's development control committee. That committee could, at the outset of this issue, have opted to refer the matter to the full council but, in the event, it decided not to do so.The development control committee meeting, held on May 26, 2004, was called specifically to discuss Fenside's application to accept hazardous waste. Those present will recall that Councillor Joe Gluza, besides confirming the committee's previously stated view of total opposition to the deposit of hazardous waste at this site, declared, very forcibly, that the committee had never even been approached to give such a consent before the current meeting.After seven hours, devoted solely to Warboys, the committee voted 5-2 to refuse permission both retrospectively and for the future. Fenside Waste Management Limited exercised their legal right to appeal this decision but then withdrew, in some apparent disarray, part way through the resultant public inquiry. In summary then, the company still has to persuade the development control committee to change its stance. Having already spent a considerable amount of public money in opposing this application, it would seem an unlikely prospect that the county council will change its mind.John Jones also told The Hunts Post that once the issue of consent had been determined - probably by the High Court some time this year - all obstacles would be removed and the site could be exploited commercially.It is reassuring to learn that the company's financial position will allow it to contemplate an expedition to the High Court. Warboys Landfill Action Group hopes that it will, therefore, receive a cheque in the sum of £22,100.60, being full settlement of our costs at the public inquiry, as awarded by the inspector, before further adventures into the legal arena are undertaken. No doubt there will be others with similar feelings and not just those awaiting their own costs settlements. At all events, it can safely be said that the outcome of litigation is usually uncertain and it is certainly not cheap. In the interim, perhaps some money can be found to undertake the urgently required remedial work to the south wall of cell 6 which the Environment Agency has identified as being required to prevent an imminent collapse into the void.They also need to solve the current leachate problems which, according to the Environment Agency, have consistently been as much as 14 times greater than the permitted levels for at least 18 months.Mr Jones said that Fenside Waste Management had legal opinions from Anthony Dinkin QC, who led its legal team during the planning inquiry, that a valid planning consent for cells 1-5a already exists. The company has always maintained that the application that led to the subsequently abandoned appeal was " a favour" to Cambridgeshire County Council officers who were coming under pressure from elected members.Mention of this "legal opinion" has been trotted out from time to time since at least 2003. The Warboys Landfill Action Group has written to Fenside Waste Management Limited asking for a sight of it without even being afforded the normal courtesy of a reply. We have not yet been able to identify anyone outside the company who is prepared to acknowledge sight of it. We do not understand why it did not surface at the development control committee meeting mentioned above or why it was not produced to help the inspector at the public inquiry. On both occasions, it was most sorely needed and might (unlikely in our view) have prevented the eventual unfavourable outcomes for the company. This being so, it is puzzling that the company, using this legal advice as its vehicle, now seems anxious to proceed to the High Court without delay.The action group has always been conscious that the considerable sum of money raised to fund the campaign has been the result of much hard work and generosity on the part of the organisations, village groups and very many individuals who have supported us. It is not to be spent lightly and without proper consideration. In this spirit, may we again invite the company to disclose this much talked about/never seen legal opinion. At a meeting at the company's site office in October 2005, it was disclosed that a takeover by South Herts Waste Management was expected to be concluded by the end of that month.This seem to us a situation almost identical to the sale of the site a decade ago from Shanks & McEwan to Fenside Waste which is where we came in.The action group wants to make all potential purchasers of the site fully aware that our mandate - obtained and confirmed at three public meetings and attended by a combined total of over 1,000 villagers - requires us to oppose the deposit of all hazardous waste at this site. We would also express our willingness to meet any organisation considering a takeover of this site and discuss, in detail, the considerable baggage it carries as well as the problems the new company is likely to face.