Residents fear toxic legacy
HAZARDOUS waste will not be removed from the landfill site at Warboys, in spite of the possibility that it would remain a risk to the community for more than 1,000 years. A public inquiry last year heard that the toxic material could pose a threat for as
HAZARDOUS waste will not be removed from the landfill site at Warboys, in spite of the possibility that it would remain a risk to the community for more than 1,000 years.
A public inquiry last year heard that the toxic material could pose a threat for as long as 5,000 years after the site was closed.
But consultants say leaving the 2.5 million tonnes of waste would pose a far lesser threat to residents than digging it out and taking it elsewhere.
And the new owners of the site - a company specialising in decontaminating land and returning it to productive use - believe they have the experience and technology to remove any potential problems within years.
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Warboys residents are deeply sceptical about assurances from owners of the site, in Puddock Hill, that it can be properly and safely managed in the short term and restored in the longer term. But even they are showing signs of optimism that the Lancashire-based Woodford Group, which bought the operating company Fenside Waste Management in May from the previous cash-strapped owners, can be believed.
Woodford's special projects guru, Dr Henry Clemmey, was tight-lipped at a meeting with planners and community representatives on Monday about the company's precise plans for the site, but he told The Hunts Post that he had had experience of far more difficult sites. He implied that, with proper management, potential pollution at Warboys could be dealt with comparatively simply and quickly.
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The Woodford Group specialises in decontaminating land - it calls the process "remediation" - and re-selling it for development for industrial or residential use. It is hard to understand why it would have bought the Warboys site if it were not confident it could clean up the area in comparatively short order.
Evidence to last year's public enquiry - an appeal by the previous owners of Fenside against Cambridgeshire County Council's refusal of planning consent for dumping hazardous waste into Cell 6 (the last part of the tip) and retrospective permission for non-hazardous and "mixed" (part-toxic) waste in Cells 1-5a - made it clear that waste management is a hazardous business. Some of that evidence, Dr Clemmey told this newspaper, was simplistic, if not plainly wrong.
Woodford has not yet decided on a long-term strategy for the site, but it plans to make a planning application to deposit non-hazardous waste in the final cell (Cell 6) to get some income to finance safeguarding and levelling the whole area. It has also applied for a permit under new EU regulations to operate on that basis. Its predecessors were refused a permit for hazardous waste - although the cell was designated for that (on data that were shown to be totally wrong) when the regulations were first introduced.
The Environment Agency cited the previous company's lack of planning consent, previous track record and financial status as reasons for refusal.
The steep sides of the cell and the expectation that it would fill with water - however unlikely that might seem this week - and the prospects of people falling in and drowning were cited on Monday as reasons by the county council's development control committee for rejecting a do-nothing option.
The committee decided not to require hazardous waste to be removed, but to seek a negotiated way forward with Woodford to comply with a 1990s planning condition to restore the land as a public amenity.
In reality, that condition is never likely to be complied with. Woodford did not buy the site to create a nature reserve, which was the original intention. That is not the business it is in. So there will be a compromise.
If it is as good as Dr Clemmey's word, the site will be decontaminated. Then it will be sold for development. That is the business it is in.