MMAG Update Summer 2010

Our campaign is being waged at the local and national level ranging from MMAG involvement in consultations over core waste strategies to various government departments and their plans for green solutions to waste disposal and energy production. But the best bit is talking to people as we did recently in Ampthill Park about why putting a monster incinerator in Rookery Pit would be a terrible mistake and MMAG looks forward to explaining that to the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) a lot this year.

We wrote to the IPC on July 28th in which we pointed out that it would be perverse and an affront to democracy to proceed with the Covanta application after statements by the Prime Minister that all the latest technology for alternatives to incineration should be considered, the intention to abolish the IPC eventually and the fact much of the national policy statements (NPS) on energy infrastructure remain to be decided. The IPC (a zombie quango in that it is the bureaucratic equivalent of the living dead) replied on August 5th – Click Here to view letter. Unsurprisingly it merely repeated that it intended to proceed with the application.

We have challenged one aspect of their reply. Para 6 of the IPC letter states: “that if an application reaches decision stage and the relevant NPS has been designated, the IPC will decide the application. If the NPS has not been designated, the IPC will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State, who will make the decision. Subject to whether or not the Commission decides to accept the Rookery South application, and bearing in mind the likely time period for the examination of the application, it is possible that the relevant NPS will have been designated by the time the Commission reaches the decision making stage. If an NPS has not been designated, in developing its recommendation, the Commission will have regard to relevant national policy, including any relevant draft NPS, and will make a judgement as to how that policy should be weighted. “

Appreciating this may seem a rather literal question we have asked them to confirm whether that means that if a NPS is designated after the period has closed in which interested parties are able to make representations and a hearing has been heard the Commission would then make a decision on the basis of a NPS that was not available to those making representations and at the time of those representations still in draft form and subject to statutory consultation? The significance of this is whether ultimately the decision of the IPC may be subject to judicial review; one aspect of which is ‘failing to consult those who the public body had a duty to consult, or those who had a “legitimate expectation” that they would be consulted before the decision was made, perhaps because they had been consulted in the past or because it would seem obvious that someone has an interest in a matter and should be consulted’. Our legal experts are keeping a close eye on this.

Covanta submitted their application to the IPC on August 5th. The IPC then has 28 days to check the paperwork is in order for the application to be formally looked at. The application is then formally published by Covanta and on the IPC website – probably September 2nd. There then follows a further period of 28 days in which ‘interested parties’ can register their interest in, or objection to the application. At the end of this period, probably September 30th any representations on the application will be published on the IPC Website. There then follows a period of 21 days in which comments can be made on the representation and these will be published on the IPC Website, probably October 21st. Around that time if not before the IPC will hold a meeting with interested parties to discuss how the application will be examined and the timetable for detailed representations and the Hearing Date. The best guess of Central Beds Council is that the examination stage could take place between January and March 2011 after which the IPC has 3 months to make a decision, perhaps in early June 2011. MMAG will be involved at every stage.

Now we are reaching a stage in our campaign where it’s all going to sound very technical and legalistic – the Covanta application is 32 documents long. We must always remember that the fundamentals here are quite simple. Are we going to let Covanta walk all over us or not? We are not alone. Covanta have been rejected in Cheshire, are not on the shortlist of Hertfordshire County Council [Click Here to view article] and are being fought in Poolbeg, near Dublin, Ireland. Dreadful and enormous as the Covanta proposal is – it occupies only part of Rookery South Pit and they are looking for co-locators; other industrial organisations who would use the energy and heat generated. The ultimate goal here may be to turn Rookery Pit South into a huge industrial site. We must also keep a close eye on our local council as it seeks tenders for waste management. We don’t want to win the battle nationally and be stabbed in the back locally by Councils seduced by cheap promises. For that reason the meeting being organised in September by Nadine Dorries MP is very important.

MMAG hopes you enjoy the rest of the summer!

Hugh Roberts