Lower Sirhowy Valley waste processing facility

UPDATE

ELF is delighted to report that the group we assisted in Cwmfelinfach, South Wales, the Lower Sirhowy Valley Residents Group, learnt yesterday that Natural Resources Wales have refused to grant an environmental permit for the proposed waste plant in their valley. When the group first came to ELF in August of last year, planning permission had already been granted and NRW were indicating that they were likely to grant an environmental permit in early September. Local residents had serious concerns over the health impacts of the proposed waste plant.

By the time the group came to ELF, they had already done a lot of work on the issue of emissions, much of it technical analysis of the applicant’s reports, and had a clear understanding of their own local environment notably the often seen weather event in their valley “temperature inversion”, a rare weather phenomena otherwise.

Local knowledge backed up by a determination to understand the technical reports, which led to them revealing many inconsistencies in the applicant’s reports, such as taking no account whatsoever of local conditions having made their readings from places as far away as 35 miles, meant the group did a phenomenal job in scrutinising the application. Quite soon it became clear that NRW had their own concerns with the application.

This is great example of where local people have the knowledge that outsiders do not have, when it comes to their local environment. And the tenacity to be undaunted by technical reports and to carefully consider them which resulted in their discovering problems with the application.

This morning we received an email from our contact from the group to say thanks to all at ELF who helped, the ELF professional members who we referred the work too – both Rory Hutchinson of JCP Solicitors and laterally Richard Buxtons solicitors.

“Counsellor Jan Jones and the group asked me to personally say thank you and Environmental Law Foundation for what you have done for us . . . the local pub was drunk dry yesterday evening from the village celebrating our good news!!”

More about this case below:

The Lower Sirhowy Valley Residents Group in Cwmfelinfach, South Wales, contacted ELF seeking help in assessing an environmental permit application from Hazrem Environmental Ltd. It wants to build a new waste processing facility to accept up to 100,000 tonnes of non-hazardous waste each year and turn it into fuel for incinerating power stations. Lorry diesel air pollutants will arise from hundreds of deliveries and collections each week, whilst the facility itself will generate high volumes of dust.

Planning permission for the building has already been granted.

Hazrem Environmental’s chosen location for the facility is a steep sided valley, well known for experiencing temperature inversions caused by cold drainage flow. Such inversions are a recurrent meteorological feature of valleys in the area, highly familiar to local people, which can trap cold air – and its pollutants – in a valley for days at a time.

The application took no account of these inversions and their potential to result in very high levels of pollutants. Its weather modelling used data from two weather stations, one on the coast at Rhose Airport, 35 miles away, the other on an open plain 7 miles away at Caerphilly.

Similarly, its air quality estimates – as the group only discovered six months after the granting of planning permission – used bias adjusted figures not from where the facility will be located, but from Caerphilly and Blackwood where, again, the topography bears no resemblance to the proposed location of the new facility.

Public Health Wales, responding as statutory consultee, has warned, “We would therefore recommend that the Regulator [Natural Resource Wales] exercise caution in considering the granting of a Permit”.

This case illustrates how difficult it can be for communities (and planning authorities and lawyers) to identify and challenge technical reports. With this in mind, ELF have begun discussions with our university partners about the possibility of involving technical and scientific departments, in their ELF clinics.

If practical, this would significantly boost the ability of communities to assess and present hard evidence on matters such as air and water quality, geological and biological impacts, and noise. Please get in touch if you can help us progress this initiative.

The photo shows a temperature inversion over Islwyn Road, Wattsvile at 8.30am – rush hour traffic. This area already exceeds the recommended level of air pollution.