Waste company wants to extend huge riverside waste operation

A waste company building a huge landfill hill on the border of the River Thames in Havering is hoping to extend its planning permission which runs out next year.

French multinational Veolia has run a landfill and waste processing facility metres from the river bank in Coldharbour Lane, Rainham, since 1980.

The waste giant has permission from Havering Council to eventually create twin peaks of a waste-filled hill reaching 50 metres and 40 metres high.

Under the council’s planning permission granted in 2016, Veolia must “restore” the new hill and stop operating by 2024.

The 2016 permission also requires the company to remove the large compound it has built up which includes landfill methane-powered electricity generators, machinery to process contaminated water, a recycling plant, composting and soil washing.

However, Veolia has told the council the compound is “crucial” to monitoring gas and leachate – potentially contaminated water – which could continue for “60 plus years”.

If permission is granted, the company says it will complete the landfill “restoration and aftercare” by 2031, after which the hill will become a conservation park that is “fully open to the public”.

From 2026, Veolia wants to turn existing two existing plastic recycling and material recovery facilities into “one larger building”, extending permission to process up to 200,000 tonnes of waste a year into the future.

When asked what waste goes into the landfill, Veolia told the Local Democracy Reporting Service it accepts “local commercial and municipal waste that cannot be recycled”.

A spokesperson said: “One of the main functions of the Rainham landfill site is to utilise the landfill gas that’s produced from buried waste to generate electricity for supply to the distribution network.

“In 2022, we captured and utilised around 78million m3 of landfill gas, which is used to generate around 12megawatts of electricity per hour, enough to power more than 34,000 homes!”

In the 2016 planning application, the company said it had become “increasingly apparent” that the waste supply was not enough waste to raise land levels to the agreed height.

The final shape of the hill is complicated by the way the landfill settles slowly over time, as the landfill is deposited and “restored” with a layer of soil that has been washed on site.

Noise, air quality and landscape studies commissioned by Veolia have concluded there would not be any significant impacts from the final size of the hill or by extending the waste processing and power generating operation

The Rainham area has been used for London’s waste disposal for 150 years, when barges carryied hay into London and returned with ash.

Part of the agreement for the long-term restoration of the site is that it will be part of the Wildspace Conservation Park featuring view points, footpaths, an adventure playground, a cycle circuit and a watersports facility.

If permission is granted, the waste plant buildings will sit alongside other large warehouses Havering has approved, including the 35,000sqm Freightmaster Estate last year.

A Havering Council spokesperson said: “The planning application is only for the continued use of the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) and a plastics recycling facility.

“The landfill operation has planning permission until the end of 2024. The applicant states that there has been an increase in recycling which has put pressure on the facility to upgrade and expand their current facility.

“Like all planning applications, it will be subject to the usual planning decision process.”

To view and comment on the applications on Havering Council’s website, search for references P0718.23 and P0070.23

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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter