Calls for Caerphilly council to answer claim permission for recycling plant was ‘unlawful’
Saul Cooke-Black, local democracy reporter
Caerphilly council has called for patience amid growing calls to answer a claim that planning permission for a new waste recycling plant was ‘unlawful.’
Permission for the facility on land at the Nine Mile Point industrial estate in Cwmfelinfach was granted in December 2015, despite a series of protests held by residents with concerns over traffic and air pollution.
But the Lower Sirhowy Valley Residents Group has written to all Caerphilly county borough councillors, claiming the permission granted is ‘unlawful’ because an environmental impact assessment (EIA) was not carried out.
The group has received legal advice on the issue which said failing to carry out an environmental impact assessment was “an error of law”, causing the council to breach regulations and “invalidating the grant of planning permission”.
However, the development currently has lawful planning permission.
Now the council’s Plaid Cymru and Independent groups have called for clarity over the situation, while a further protest was held by campaigners in Risca on Wednesday.
Councillor Colin Mann, leader of the Plaid Cymru group, said he is “concerned that the council is refusing to look at an alternative to the judicial review process”.
“Why is there a reluctance to try to find a sensible way to resolve this flawed planning consent?” he said.
“We need answers now, not after more money has been wasted.”
Cllr Mann said that he would be writing to the council’s chief executive, Christine Harrhy asking for answers, adding “this can’t be allowed to go on”.
Independent group leader, Cllr Kevin Etheridge has also written to Welsh Government ministers Julie James and Mark Drakeford, calling for a public inquiry.
Janine Reed, of The Lower Sirhowy Valley Residents Group, has called for answers over the situation.
“The council said they are waiting for their barrister but that it could take several months,” she said.
“It is our opinion that the council is stalling.”
A Caerphilly council spokesman said: “We want to reassure residents that this matter will be subject to full and transparent scrutiny as part of the forthcoming judicial review.
“Despite some of the claims being made in the community, it is important to note that at present the Hazrem application has lawful planning permission.
“It will be for the court to decide whether the council acted properly in granting the planning permission in 2015.
“We would urge residents to be patient and allow due process to be followed in this matter.”