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Incinerator group slams council over planning row

31 Jan 2024 5 minute read
Barry Incinerator. Image: Comm Comm Uk

Ted Peskett Local Democracy Reporter

Campaigners have slammed a Welsh council over a planning row involving an incinerator which will cost the local authority “significantly”.

Docks Incinerator Action Group’s (DIAG) criticism comes weeks after Planning and Environment Decisions Wales (PEDW) ordered Vale of Glamorgan Council to pay costs to the firm behind Barry Biomass Plant after quashing an enforcement notice.

The notice, which was served on the plant by the council after a number discrepancies were found with the original approved plans for the site, was found to be inaccurate according to PEDW.

Enforcement notice

Vale of Glamorgan Council said that it was disappointed by PEDW’s decision in respect of the enforcement notice served against the biomass plant and does not accept the approach taken by the planning body in resolving the matter.

DIAG has demanded an explanation from the council as to how it will investigate and deal with the failings laid out by PEDW in a scathing letter which stated that a proper investigation of the planning breach was lacking and “compounded by repeated refusal to accept that the [enforcement notice] was defective”.

The chair of DIAG, Paul Robertson, wrote to Vale Council leader, Cllr Lis Burnett to say that PEDW’s report is “so damning” of the council’s actions “that the least worrying explanation is that its conduct of the case was incompetent”.

Mr Robertson said that the failures laid out by PEDW will “cost the council and local residents significantly” and called the planning body’s criticism “undermining of trust” in the local authority.

Plans for Barry Biomass Plant were approved in 2015, but it wasn’t until 2021 that an enforcement notice was served against Barry Biomass UK.

Discrepancies

The alleged discrepancies with the original planning application 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.

Mr Robertson of DIAG added in his letter: “Please confirm what alternative steps will be taken by the council to avoid further issues that may very well lead to allegations of continuing incompetence and unreasonable behaviour.

“There is no point in assuming people will learn from their mistakes when your council continues to assert no mistakes have been made.”

Vale of Glamorgan Council said it strongly refutes the allegations made by DIAG about its approach to date.

New evidence brought before PEDW by Barry Biomass UK showed that there was a need to alter the enforcement notice against the biomass plant to accurately reflect the reported planning breaches which took place.

Alleged breach

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.

There is no specified amount of money that the council will have to pay in PEDW’s 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 number of planning applications submitted by Barry Biomass 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.

Response

A Vale of Glamorgan Council spokesperson said: “The Council does not accept the approach taken by PEDW in resolving this matter.

“It was open to the inspector to amend the enforcement notice, without injustice to the appellant or the Council and indeed such an option of amending Enforcement Notices is a common approach.

“Nevertheless, PEDW has taken the decision it has and, on that basis, has decided to award costs against the Council.

“This is regrettable and is something that the Council argued against. We have not yet received any claim for costs.

“The Council continues to consider the planning application that has been submitted by the appellants to regularise the development as built and which includes an environmental impact assessment.

“The consideration of this will include the need for further enforcement action if appropriate.

“The Council strongly refutes the allegations made by DIAG about our approach to date.

“The Council sought and obtained legal advice at every stage of the process prior to taking enforcement action.

“This was done to ensure that Planning Committee had the benefit of relevant and up to date advice.

“That advice was set out in all the relevant reports to Committee.

“At every stage in the process we have sought to ensure any development meets all planning and environmental standards and we will continue in this vein.”


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