I attended a presentation from the Environment Agency last night along with Labour colleagues and other councillors. The presentation also included an update from Simon Castle, Trafford’s Chief Planning Officer. I’ll deal with Simon’s presentation first:
- There is no date set for when the application will come to committee. It could be a few months before that happens.
- Although the consultation period is closed, representations are still being received and will be taken into account right up to the decision.
- The Health Protection Agency have been added to the standard consultees, although there’s been no request for a Health Impact Assessment (see letter from the Director of Public Health in previous post)
Presentation from Environment Agency
The slides from last night’s presentation will be added as soon as I receive them. The main point is that the Environment Agency’s permitting scheme is a parallel process to planning but runs entirely separately to the planning process. The project needs to pass both hurdles in order for it to operate. If the project was to gain its Environment Agency approval but be refused planning (after appeal), the project will not go ahead. The converse is also true.
- The application for a permit has not yet been accepted as ‘received’. There’s a little bit of to-ing and fro-ing as the final details of the application are refined.
- When it is received there will be a 20 day consultation exercise.
- Unlike planning, the regulating authority issues a draft permit for consultation – so it’s a two stage process
- Permits can change over time and the Environment Agency apply ‘Best Available Technique‘ standard to their permits. As technology improves, the operator must apply that technology. (This particular issue raised questions from Labour Councillors over Plasma Gasification which has been mooted by opponents as a cleaner and environmentally friendly means of extracting energy from waste). The Environment Agency representatives had received no guidance on Plasma Gasification and it seems they do not consider it is yet sufficiently mainstream for a view to be offered. It’s clear to me that the Best Available Technique is a notion that only applies to elements within a process and not to the nature of the process itself. I do not believe that even were plasma gasification to become be accepted as mainstream and the preferred model, that the Environment Agency would order the plant to be rebuilt to adopt that process. I do not say this right, I just believe it to be the reality.
My view is that we have to be assured that the plant is safe from its inception and not take a view that it will become safer as technology develops. I take no comfort from the Environment Agency’s adherence to Best Available Technique.
- There was a lot of discussion around the inspection regime that will operate. Clearly this has become a contentious subject and views are polarised. I’m not reassured that even were the inspection regime be foolproof, that the poor air quality we already experience will not be impaired further and there’s the rub. It is already accepted that our air quality is shortening lives (in reality that means some of us are dying early as a consequence). Our focus should be on improving that air quality – actions to reduce road traffic etc, not allowing the air quality to deteriorate further.
I think the main message from last night’s presentation is that we will have to follow the progress of the Permit Application and contribute to the consultation process. I am particularly interested in any Health impact Assessment that is submitted with their application. If I understand the Friends of the Earth Guidance (page 6), there will be such an assessment submitted – although it may be called something else.
The Environment Agency will notify us when the application is accepted and we’ll be able to view details at the Environment Agency Consultations Pages