Essex Council approves plan for million-tonne landfill in Wickford and Rawreth green belt

ESSEX Council has approved plans to create a landfill site on green belt land at the border of Basildon and Rochford, for almost a million tonnes of non-biodegradable waste.

County Hall last week granted planning permission for the ‘importation, recycling and final disposal’ of the waste at Dollymans Farm, Wickford.

But councillors have made the development subject to a condition that the land will be restored to green belt within 10 years.

Oliver Rees – director of Sewells Reservoir Construction Ltd, which was behind the application – told the YA that the landfill would ‘restore’ the land to its previous form.

He said: “The land was previously used as a borrow pit. Material was taken from the site and used to help build the A130. So this project will bring it back up to the original level.”

Part of the site, near Shotgate, falls under the jurisdiction of Basildon Council, whilst the rest, in Rawreth, falls under the jurisdiction of Rochford Council.

But as the planning application involved a waste plant, Essex Council was responsible for granting or refusing permission.

Rawreth Lib Dem councillor Chris Stanley said he was ‘not happy’ with County Hall’s decision, as it had scotched the local community’s wish to use the land as a floodplain and potential reservoir site.

Cllr Stanley told the YA: “I’m not happy with it and neither is the Rawreth Flood Action Group, or those that are concerned with our green and pleasant land.

“We have been flooded three years on the trot. Rawreth sits very low and receives a lot of surface water from areas like Rayleigh and Eastwood. We’ve had vehicles stuck on the roads where the water has got so high.

“I have been working with the Rawreth Flood Action Group to try to turn that area into a flood plain and a reservoir, which would have been absolutely perfect for amenities like yachting, fishing, wildlife and so on.

“With all the land that had been dug out for the bypass, imagine how much water that could have held if we had been allowed to put a reservoir there.

“But now Essex County Council, in their infinite wisdom, have decided to fill it in with inert building waste instead.”

Essex Council’s Development and Regulation Committee last week granted conditional planning permission to Sewells to develop the 43-acre site.

Planning documents suggested the site would be used to accommodate 980,000 tonnes of landfill.

Sewells wants to construct a plant on the site for importing, recycling and disposing of inert waste – meaning waste which is not chemically or biologically reactive and will not decompose, such as sand and concrete.

Permission granted last week was dependent on a legal agreement being finalised within six months ‘requiring a financial guarantee to secure the removal of the recycling facility and restoration of the site within 10 years of commencement’.

Essex Council had initially ruled the site out as a location for a waste plant, citing its green belt status, but the landowner appealed and convinced a planning inspector.

County Hall and approved the site in principle for 500,000 tonnes of landfill over five years, but no recycling plant.

However, planning documents said the developer told County Hall that in order to ‘achieve a landform sensitive to the surrounding landscape’, the amount of landfill would have to almost double, meaning the lifespan of the facility would have to double as well.

County councillors for Wickford and Rayleigh raised concerns about traffic, damage to the green belt and the use of open space for industrial activities.

Rawreth Parish Council also raised ‘concern’ over the amount of lorry movements it would generate and over existing flooding problems in the area.

The committee at County Hall first looked at the application in May 2019, but deferred its decision for six months and asked councillors to secure a commitment from the developer that it would restore the land within a decade.

A council officer came before the committee last Friday, November 22, and asked for another six months.

They told councillors: “Negotiations have been quite lengthy with the applicant. Discussions are still ongoing. There is a very early draft which has been formulated and is going around internally.”

Councillors unanimously agreed to grant planning permission on the proviso that a final agreement was secured between Sewells and the council by May 2020.

Basildon Conservative Malcolm Buckley was one of the county councillors who had raised concerns, but said he felt the decision was a positive outcome.

He explained: “I would rather it wasn’t there at all, but the reality of it is that it’s going to happen, so it’s really a case of, as far as I’m concerned, minimising the impact on residents and businesses – and that’s pretty much the best we’re going to get from it.”

Charles Thomson

Chief ReporterEmail: [email protected]