Council ‘guilty of multiple failings over sewage station in the park scheme’, High Court told
Cardiff council was guilty of multiple procedural failings when it approved the construction of a sewage pumping station in a well-loved suburban park, the High Court has been told.
Llandaff North Residents’ Association is challenging the decision by way of judicial review at the city’s Civil Justice Centre.
Campaigners oppose siting the pumping station in Hailey Park, where they say it would service up to nearly 6,000 new homes planned for an urban village called Plasdŵr on the other side of the River Taff. They believe the pumping station is of no benefit to them and could create environmental and health risks.
But the judicial review is focussing on whether the council followed the correct procedures when approving the scheme.
In a written submission lodged with the court, barrister Isabella Buono, for the residents’ association, outlined a series of ways in which she argued that the council had breached its legal duties in considering the scheme.
She said permission should not have been granted to Welsh Water to build the pumping station or to the housing developer Redrow for details relating to sewage disposal.
Much of the challenge hinges on the argument that under EU law that has been retained following Brexit, there should have been a more detailed environmental impact assessment of the pumping station.
Ms Buono stated: “The decision not to require a hydraulic modelling assessment of the proposed sewer improvement/reinforcement scheme is irrational, fails to take into account material considerations, and takes into account immaterial considerations/errors of fact.
“The council failed to consider the requirement … for an environmental statement to ‘include a description of the reasonable alternatives… and an indication of the main reasons for the option chosen’.
“In refusing to seek detail of the various offsite works detailed in the Foul Drainage Condition submission, the council irrationally failed to consider the correct question, namely whether the environmental effects of such works were part of the environmental effects of the residential scheme which needed to be considered under regulation 9 of the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations.”
Ms Buono added: “There was a failure to seek environmental information on the offsite works in Hailey Park and under the River Taff. Additionally, no information was sought on the nature and extent of the proposed surface water removal scheme. Some (insufficient) information was provided in respect of a surface water removal scheme … which identified ‘significant risk’ and a need to remove 8.9 hectares of water. While the environmental effects of such a risk are not explained, they could presumably include hydraulic overloading of the public sewerage system and/or flooding and/or pollution of or detriment to drainage watercourses.”
Ms Buono concluded by asking the court to quash the permissions granted to Welsh Water and Redrow and to award costs to Llandaff North Residents’ Association to a maximum of £35,000.
In response, Cardiff council maintains that it has acted entirely properly and in accordance with the law.
A submission to the High Court written by barristers Robert Williams and Dr Alex Williams, representing the council, states: “The pumping station is necessary to transmit some of the foul drainage flows which would enter the public sewerage system … to the trunk sewer at Hailey Park.
“This proposed operation was explained in Welsh Water’s planning statement as follows: “A new separate sewerage system is currently proposed by Redrow Homes which would collect all domestic foul flows and discharge into the existing sewer network located in the Danescourt area of Cardiff … For completeness, surface water flows will be dealt with separately and will not enter the foul sewer.
“The sewer network at Danescourt is located on the western side of the River Taff and development. The design of the system therefore allows only a proportion of the flows to continue on the Cog Moors sewer network. The remaining flows will use the new tunnel sewer which crosses below the River Taff to the proposed pumping station at Hailey Park. The pumping station would discharge this flow into an existing trunk sewer system that runs through Hailey Park, which then drains flows to Cardiff wastewater treatment works.
“Therefore, while the Hailey Park pumping station is required as a result of the projected increase in foul flows from the Plasdŵr Scheme (which would otherwise overwhelm the capacity of the existing public sewerage network), the pumping station (together with the related pipework under the River Taff) has the effect of increasing the overall capacity of – and will serve – the public sewerage network.
“Consequently, the pumping station scheme will not simply service foul drainage from the Plasdŵr mixed-use scheme under the 2017 permission, but also foul drainage from other developments in the area (both existing and potentially future developments).”
This, claims the council, refutes the residents’ association’s claim that the pumping station and the Plasdŵr development should be seen as part of the same project.
On the issue of whether the environmental impact assessment (EIA) carried out by the council was sufficient, Mr Williams and Dr Williams state: “When undertaking EIA screening of the Hailey Park pumping station, the council did not confine itself to the development which was the subject of the application for permission.
It exercised its judgement as to the extent of the project as a whole, concluding that the below-ground pipeline running beneath the River Taff … formed part of the same project despite the fact that it fell [outside] the planning application.
“The council screened this project as a whole, including the underground pipeline.The council also considered whether the Plasdŵr scheme formed part of the same project, and concluded that it did not.
“Accordingly, this is a case in which the council, when undertaking its EIA screening of the Hailey Park pumping station, gave close and careful consideration to the extent of the project in question, and did not simply confine itself to the ambit of the planning application in question.
“The claimant’s contention that the council nevertheless erred in law by failing to treat the surface water removal as part of the same project as the pumping station is misconceived.”
The court’s judgement will be released later this year.
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