Listed below are previous updates:
A huge and vocal crowd of objectors protested at County Hall against the proposed incinerator at New Barnfield. They came despite HCC restricting access to the actual debate, and, after a rally outside, they packed not just the council chamber but also the extra committee room with audio link. HCC turned some away. Many arrived with great impact, in two Routemaster buses, covered with posters of protest.
The County Council’s decision was to grant permission. This was no great surprise to campaigners, as the County Council was judging its own plan. This was just one step in a long process, and the next step is to request a call-in by the Department of Communities and Local Government, who can then reject it or call a full public inquiry. MP Grant Shapps has already asked for a call-in, and Hatfield Against Incineration and the New Barnfield Trust are ready to submit a detailed case.
It would have been best if the councillors had seen sense, but in many ways the day was a success for objectors. The controversial nature of the proposal was clearly demonstrated by the huge turn-out, on a work-day, and by the determination and strength of argument of the two presenters of petitions, the seven speakers against the proposal, and those County Councillors who spoke and voted against the planning application.
Also, it was clear that Herts County Council cannot demonstrate their view that the harm that would be caused would be outweighed by very special circumstances.
They relied, as usual, on repeating that an incinerator is needed to reduce landfill.
They did not have any arguments to prove that an incinerator anywhere, let alone one of 380,000 tonnes per year size, on this specific site, is actually needed.
Clive Bennett presented a petition for the North Mymms Green Belt Society and Simon Archer presented four petitions drawn up by the local political parties. Kieran Thorpe, for New Barnfield Trust, outlined all the harm that would be caused by using this site. Cathy Roe, for Hatfield against Incineration, outlined some of the details of our case, such as the flaws in Veolia’s Alternative Sites Assessment and the lack of data on carbon emissions. Mick Bee, of Herts Without Waste, showed that the incinerator would be far too large, even if it burned commercial and industrial waste as well as local authority collected waste. Claire Taylor, of NMGBS, spoke of the harm to the Green Belt, and Mandy Perkins, a councillor on Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, spoke of the reasons for their strong opposition. Adrienne Nix, speaking as a local resident, spoke movingly of how it would affect her. Finally Peter Clegg, for Hatfield House, spoke of the impact on this grade 1 listed heritage asset, the lack of consultation, and the unsatisfactory ASA.
Liberal/Democrat and Labour County councillors on the committee spoke and voted against, with councillor Allan Witherick working particularly hard all afternoon to argue the case against. Some Welwyn Hatfield Conservative County Councillors – Steve Markiewicz and Sara Johnston, spoke strongly against. Unfortunately the County Councillor for Hatfield South, Stuart Pile, was away and did not attend. He submitted a paper, but as he sent it to County councillors but not to the Planning Officer, it was not read out.
The Conservative councillors on the committee asked questions, but none of their questions really tackled the key issues. Some said in the debate that they were undecided. Then there were a couple of little softening amendments from the Conservatives about some sort of compensation being paid to the local community, and the hours of HGV deliveries starting at 7 am instead of 5 am, and these tiny details were apparently enough for the Conservatives to decide the incinerator was a good thing. The meeting was rushed to an end by the chair, and all the Conservatives on the committee then voted for it, after expressing the view that there was need for the proposed incinerator so all the drawbacks were over-ridden.
The meeting was a success for objectors in that our case was put, and neither Veolia nor HCC was able to refute it. They just brushed away key problems such as the impact on Hatfield House and Southfield School, the traffic and visual impact on residents, and points about procedure such as the flawed Alternative Sites Assessment, the lack of essential data on low-carbon energy, and the lack of consultation with English Heritage.
Some councillors made points which were factually incorrect and showed their lack of knowledge of the proposal, such as Philip Bibby saying the plot size used in the Green Belt would not increase, when it definitely would. Even the Planning Officers, Iain Leech and Brian Owen, could not supply all the information that was requested, but the councillors continued regardless. The prize for desperation in finding an argument for this dreadful proposal surely goes to councillor Terry Douris, who said that an incinerator next to Southfield School would be an opportunity for the children to learn about waste!
Congratulations must go to all the campaigners who contributed, whether by giving speeches, leafleting beforehand, providing free buses, making placards, making great efforts to be there, taking photos, talking to the press, radio and tv, and by applauding and heckling just enough to show feeling without disrupting the meeting.
Jack Radio, Heart Radio, BBC 3 Counties Radio, BBC London TV, and Welwyn Hatfield Times were all there, and many interviews were also done before and after the meeting. Thanks to all the reporters and photographers.
Hertfordshire County Council's Development Control Committee met to discuss planning permission for Veolia's incinerator at New Barnfield (being built for HCC) on Wednesday, 24 October 2012 at County Hall.
As had been expected, the planning permission was granted with councillors voting on party lines (despite claims by some that they had "not yet made their minds up"). The final result was, of the 15 members, eleven Conservative councillors for and four (3 LibDem and 1 Labour) councillors voting against.
As an exercise in democracy, local government and localism the vote was an appalling and shameful decision. Particularly galling were the claims by some councillors voting for the decision was that they were acting in the best interests of the children of Hertfordshire.
The decision is now expected to be called in by the Secretary of State Eric Pickles.
Development Control Committee Members (or their substitutes):
Phil J Bibby – Conservative, St Nicholas (Stevenage) – Voted FOR the incinerator
Chris N Brazier – Liberal Democrat, The Colneys – Voted AGAINST the incinerator
Nigel K Brook – Conservative, Hitchin Rural – Voted FOR the incinerator
D Steve Drury – Liberal Democrat, Croxley – Voted AGAINST the incinerator
Terry Douris (substituting for Clare L Berry – Conservative, Hatfield North – although there is an unconfirmed report she was present) – Conservative, Hemel Hempstead North West – Voted FOR the incinerator
Bryan N W Hammond (Vice-Chairman, in the absence of the chairman he was on the bench chairing the meeting) – Conservative, Hertford Rural – Voted FOR the incinerator
Teresa Heritage (substituting for R H Smith – Chairman) – Conservative, Harpenden South West – Voted FOR the incinerator
John Lloyd – Labour, Shepall – Voted AGAINST the incinerator
Seamus Quilty – Conservative, Bushey South – Voted FOR the incinerator
Peter A Ruffles – Conservative, St Andrews (East Herts) – Voted FOR the incinerator
Edward T Roach – Conservative, Potters Bar East – Voted FOR the incinerator
Ray L Shakespeare-Smith – Conservative, Hitchin North – Voted FOR the incinerator
John W A Usher – Conservative, Potters Bar West and Shenley – Voted FOR the incinerator
Andrew D Williams (substituting for Michael D M Muir, Conservative, Letchworth East and Baldock) – Conservative, Hemel Hempstead East – Voted FOR the incinerator
Allan S M Witherick (substituting for Geoff R Churchard, Liberal Democrat, Sandridge) – Liberal Democrat, St Albans North – Voted AGAINST the incinerator
Present on the bench (excluding the chair Bryan Hammond)
James Dale – HCC Planning Officer (Highways and Transport)
Jonathan Tiley – HCC Head of Spatial and Land Use Planning
Iain Leech – HCC Senior Planning Officer
Brian Owen – HCC Development Control
Julie Thornton – Solicitor
Mark Lowe – Barrister
Nicola Cahill – HCC Democratic Services Officer
Councillors present in the chamber but not voting
Malcolm Cowan – Liberal Democrat, Handside and Peartree (also WHBC councillor for Peartree) – Spoke AGAINST the incinerator
Steven Markiewicz – Conservative, Welwyn Garden City South (also WHBC councillor for Welwyn East) – Spoke AGAINST the incinerator
Sara Johnston – Conservative, Haldens (also WHBC councillor for Panshanger) – Spoke AGAINST the incinerator
Bill Storey – Conservative, Hatfield Rural (also North Mymms Parish Council councillor for Welham Green) – did not speak
Please note: this is not a complete list of those
present. However, it is believed that it does include all the names of
those who played an active role in these proceedings (also known to have
been present at County Hall on the day were WHBC councillors:
Maureen Cook, Labour, Hatfield Central; Cathy Watson,
Labour, Hatfield West; and
Hatfield Town Council councillors: Peter Heyman, Labour, West Ward Ron Wheeler, Conservative, Villages Ward, and the town clerk Carrie Lloyd).
The meeting started with petitions against granting planning permission presented by:
Clive Bennett – on behalf of the North Mymms District Greenbelt Society
Simon Archer – presented four separate petitions on behalf of the main Welwyn Hatfield political parties (Conservative, Green, Labour and the Liberal Democratic)
Speakers against the incinerator (each allowed a 15-minute slot):
Kieran Thorpe – Labour, WHBC councillor for Hatfield South, spoke also as a representative of the New Barnfield Trust
Cathy Roe – Hatfield Against Incineration campaign group
Mick Bee – Herts Without Waste campaign group
Mandy Perkins – Conservative, WHBC councillor for Welwyn West on behalf of Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council
Claire Taylor – North Mymms Greenbelt Society
Adrienne Nix – Local resident and a member of the Veolia Community Engagement Group
Peter Clegg – on behalf of the Hatfield House trust and management company Gascoyne Cecil Estates
Speakers for the incinerator (joint presentation by two Veolia managers which lasted around 35-40 minutes):
Nick Holland – Veolia Director of Planning
Keith McGurk – Veolia Regional Director
After their presentation there was a break for lunch. Post lunch session started with statements from HCC planning officials on the bench, mainly:
Iain Leech – HCC Senior Planning Officer
Brian Owen – HCC Development Control
This was followed by a debate and the vote. In addition to the record of events in the HAI summary above it is also worth noting the following:
– Claims of job creation were not scrutinised. The incinerator will only bring 52 jobs (when already 72 Full Time Equivalent jobs – with part-timers / job-sharing around 90 roles are being / have been lost to clear the site). The incinerator's go-ahead further jeopardises construction (and other jobs) that would have resulted from the Hatfield town centre and High View (Hilltop) redevelopment projects. Further as this is a single large project involving specialist equipment it remains to be seen how many local people will benefit from the construction phase.
– No one pointed out that the letter from Herts Chamber of Business and Industry was signed by Tim Hutchings – who according to information on the web is a graduate of and visiting lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire; whose directorships include Hertfordshire Tourism & Leisure Partnership and Groundwork Trust (Hertfordshire) Limited. Even more significantly, given the political nature of the vote, is also a Conservative candidate for Broxbourne and Hoddesdon South Ward.
– Veolia claims to have consulted widely were not challenged. Peter Clegg for Hatfield House in his eloquent statement said that neither they nor English Heritage were consulted properly. While there were several members of the 'Community Engagement Group' listening to proceedings – and none of them were favourably impressed with the way that group was conducted (with Adrienne Nix and Cathy Roe being two of the speakers against the incinerator).
– One councillor claimed to have done research and said there was nothing to suggest that Veolia were not suitable to run the incinerator. Veolia admitted in the Community Engagement Group minutes (09/11/11, Point 2.1.1) that they have had 6 breaches of emission limits across 6 plants they operated in two years (it is also worth bearing in mind that emissions are averaged out across the two stacks, so the filter / system could be malfunctioning on one and toxins emitted but if the other one is working properly it may not show up as a breach). While the Health and Safety Executive online databases also show the group has racked up 4 prosecutions and 22 enforcement notices.
– No one pointed out that the project would be PFI funded (already widely criticised as being poor-value for taxpayers but has been popular in Government circles as it does not appear in their debt figures). Apparently, some councillors' concern for future generations does not extend to their fiscal health (not that the incinerator and its HGV traffic will do any favours to their physical health).
– It was pointed out that even if Veolia's incinerator qualifies for an 'R1' classification for its energy generation that would apply wherever this type of plant was built so it could not be considered as a special circumstance to allow further encroachment on to the greenbelt.
– It was also pointed out that HCC had compulsory purchase powers so they could have bought land for a waste facility anywhere in the county (but instead chose New Barnfield as their reference site – out of all sites in their property portfolio; and short-listed it with a non-starter due to Environment Agency concerns as the final two candidates).
– It was pointed out that HCC had signed the contract to build an incinerator before it had signed off its own Waste Core Strategy in effect putting the cart before the horse. However, HCC feels it can defend itself from claims of acting prematurely (but that defence has yet to be legally tested and a meeting on their Waste Core Strategy takes place w/c 5 November 2012, which HAI activists will be attending).
– There was no discussion as how properties could be expected to be screened from the visual blight by tree cover (at least partially at those times of the year when they are in leaf) when there are threats to every major native UK tree species. Dutch Elm Disease (caused by two species of the Ophiostoma fungi) has already wiped out the UK Elm population and Ash Dieback (caused by the fungus Chalara fraxinea) is threatening to do the same to the Ash trees. It is also worth remembering that pollution is considered to be a significant factor in weakening trees and making them more vulnerable to disease and pests.
– There was no discussion about how special needs children could be expected to move back to a purpose-built school once the incinerator was operational – with all the noise, smell, vibration, shadow and 'accidental' breaches of emissions limits that would bring.
– None of the three Hatfield HCC councillors (all Conservatives) said a word against the incinerator during the debate (Stuart Pile, who was away on holiday, did not have his submission read out apparently because he failed to send it to the Planning Officer).
In short, the result of the vote came as no surprise to people familiar with what has been happening in Hatfield. Over the years, HCC (and other local bodies) appear to have been concentrating special needs institutions and individuals in Hatfield (mental health clinic, young offenders institution, criminal court, released prisoners, homeless / vulnerable youngsters, disabled, special needs school, special measures school, rehabilitated addicts, refugees...). Having concentrated the weak and vulnerable into this small town which has been allowed to decline and decay they are now cutting library services by 75 per cent and installing an incinerator.
It's what you would expect in Nazi Germany but not in a British home county – and certainly not in one of its most historically significant towns.