Council could lose large sum of cash in incinerator planning row
Ted Peskett – Local Democracy Reporter
Vale of Glamorgan Council could stand to lose a huge sum of money over a planning row after its enforcement notice on a Barry incinerator plant failed.
Planning and Environment Decisions Wales (PEDW) quashed the council’s enforcement notice which it served against Barry Biomass UK No.2 Ltd’s biomass burning plant on Woodham Road in 2021 after a number of discrepancies were found with the approved plans for the site.
Barry Biomass UK, managed by Aviva Investors, appealed the council’s decision to PEDW, claiming that the notice served on it was inaccurate and disproportionate.
Another separate application by the company for costs to be paid by Vale of Glamorgan Council has now been approved by PEDW.
A decision letter published by the planning body is highly critical of the council, stating that proper investigation of the planning breach was lacking and that this failure was “compounded by repeated refusal to accept that the [enforcement notice] was defective”.
PEDW’s letter goes on the say that the council’s “failure to correctly identify the breach of planning control” caused Barry Biomass UK to “incur unnecessary or wasted expense in pursuing the appeal”.
There is no specified amount of money in the decision letter, but it states that Barry Biomass UK is now invited to submit to the council details of costs to reach an agreement over the amount.
A Vale of Glamorgan Council spokesperson said: “The Council is aware of strong local feeling regarding the Barry Biomass plant and is disappointed by PEDW’s decision in respect of the Enforcement Notice served against it.
“It is now for PEDW to submit a breakdown of costs incurred in defence of the previous notice.
“Though PEDW’s decision cannot be appealed, this decision will not stop the Council taking further enforcement action against the plant, should the need arise.
“Such circumstances include the plant becoming operational without planning permission or in the event that the current planning applications, due to be considered by committee, are refused.”
The Docks Incinerator Action Group (DIAG) called the situation a “sorry state of affairs” and said they are not surprised by the inspector’s decision.
The group maintains its stance that the incinerator must have an environmental impact assessment (EIA).
A DIAG spokesperson said: We are not surprised by the Inspector’s decision. The Inspector did not make it clear whether the unreasonable behaviour of the Vale Council was deliberate or simple incompetence. Apparently, the officers could not even draft a legitimate enforcement notice.
“The Vale Council continues to make mistakes in favour of the incinerator and refuses to accept the incinerator is EIA development. The officers and the majority on the Vale Council steadfastly deny the officers have ever made an error even though the rest of the world knows otherwise.
“Unfortunately the same officers are still making decisions about and possibly in favour of the incinerator and denying the relevance of the Environmental Impact Assessment.
“We agree with the Inspector that the behaviour of the officers is unreasonable but, as always, the only people who pay the penalty are the local residents. We deserve better. Councillors should stop supporting the indefensible. We need a proper review of the behaviour at the Vale.”
The alleged discrepancies with the original planning application, approved in 2015, included the layout and elevation of the development; additional structures, plant and equipment; and an extension of the site to the north.
Vale of Glamorgan Council said it had little choice but to serve the enforcement notice when it did as it wanted to ensure that the developers were not able to gain consent by default, which could have rendered conditions applied to the original application null and void.
New evidence brought before PEDW by Barry Biomass UK showed that there was a need to alter the notice to accurately reflect the reported planning breaches which took place.
PEDW invited the council to consider how the alleged breach could be corrected and following a Vale of Glamorgan Council planning committee meeting on April 27, 2023 committee members agreed to put forward an amendment to the enforcement notice for PEDW’s consideration.
On July 17, the planning inspectorate sent a letter to the council stating that reporting on both the original notice and the suggested corrections would introduce significant additional uncertainty and complexity to the inquiry.
It added that there was a significant risk of extending the number of inquiry sitting days and the likelihood of requiring a significant period of adjournment.
A number of planning applications submitted by Barry Biomas UK to regulate the biomass burning plant will be considered by Vale of Glamorgan Council’s planning committee.
However, a date has not yet been set for when these applications will be determined.
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