A number of enquiries have recently been made to Brightlingsea Town Council with regard to the proposed inert recycling plant at Morses Lane, Brightlingsea. Town Councillor Ben Smith summarises the current situation.
Brightlingsea Town Council along with Tendring District Council and many other organisations and individuals objected to the Morses Lane Site being incorporated into the Essex & Southend-on-sea Replacement Waste Local Plan. These objections were overruled by the Inspector and in July Essex County Council approved the plan which lasts until 2032.
Brightlingsea Residents’ Action Group (BRAG) has been formed to fight the proposal. Their campaign highlights the serious health, safety and environmental risks associated with large-scale concrete crushing and associated activities. Their website is http://www.brag.website/ and their Facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/BRAGCampaign/ . (The author of this article is currently the ‘link’ between BRAG and BTC).
The site is known in the plan as ‘Table 14 Morses Lane, Brightlingsea’ and is basically a proposal to crush demolition waste into what is known as recycled or secondary aggregates. (Primary Aggregates are sand, gravel and rock ‘as dug’). The use of secondary aggregates reduces the need for primary aggregates and the process of producing secondary aggregates turns ‘waste’ into a ‘resource’. However, it does have limited uses such as trench fills, backfills, oversite fills and as a granular sub-base. It cannot be used though for making concrete for foundations of houses for example unless it is washed and screened.
Although the site is ‘within the plan’ the Inspector has imposed some constraints. Firstly, the crusher ‘would be enclosed’, presumably in a building. This would be a ‘first’ for Essex as there are currently no enclosed crushers currently operating in the county. Secondly the inspector states that the proposed development should have ‘regard to impacts on neighbouring land uses including the adjacent retail facility’ (Co-op). Thirdly with regard to traffic the Inspector accepts ‘additional traffic’ on the only road in to Brightlingsea and goes on to say that during the Plan process ‘no technical evidence has been provided to show that such additional vehicle movements would place unacceptable pressure on the local road network.’
As of now (December 2017) we do not have a planning application. There may be pre-application discussions going on between the potential applicant and the County Council but they are private. It is also not clear if the proposal would require an Environmental Impact Assessment. It would not be required under Schedule 1 of the EIA regulations but with regard to Schedule 2 it is within 2 Km of the Colne Estuary SSSI and as the Inspector has pointed out it must have regard to impacts on neighbouring land uses. If an EIA is required it will delay considerably the time it takes to come before the planning committee which in Essex is called the ‘Development & Regulation Committee’.
The difference between the information provided for the Waste Local Plan and the actual planning application can be summed up in one word – ‘detail’. The applicant for planning permission will need to submit a traffic assessment, visual impact survey etc , which were not fully covered in the Waste Local Plan process. They will need to show where the waste is coming from and where it is going to.
The reasons organizations and individuals objected to the proposals can be summarized as follows. The process of recycling demolition waste into secondary aggregates is to be applauded and keeps primary aggregates in the ground for future generations. However, many people reached the conclusion that this site is totally inappropriate. It is very unlikely that there will be any significant local source of demolition waste and furthermore there is no significant requirement for secondary aggregates in Brightlingsea during the Plan period. The Tendring District Council does not see Brightlingsea as a growth area. Beside the completion of the Marina development and Robinson Road Phase 2 there will only be small infill development and occasional backland development. There has been talk of a new road ‘in’ to Brightlingsea but this would cost millions and would certainly not be warranted by the proposed waste site or limited residential development.
All of the objections to the site being included in the Waste Local Plan are still available on line and there was a lot of common ground between the different objections. In general terms the objections relate to the unsuitability of the site, traffic, impacts on residential, retail and the school.
WHAT CAN BE DONE NOW ?
In relation to the new Waste Local Plan simply ‘nothing’. It cannot now be changed in any way and the Brightlingsea site will remain in the plan during the plan period. That does not mean that the Brightlingsea site will have automatic planning permission. However, it is well known that refusal of planning permission would lead to an appeal and the appellant would go for costs against the County Council. He/she would argue that the County Council put the site in the plan and has now ‘changed its mind’ without a change in circumstances. If awarded costs could run in to hundreds of thousands of pounds.
However, contrary to what has been said this is not a ‘done deal’ For example the Inspector said in relation to the main road into Brightlingsea ‘no technical evidence has been provided to show that such additional vehicle movements would place unacceptable pressure on the local road network.’ An independent professional traffic engineer may reach a different conclusion.
Also any planning application must accord with the ‘Development Plan’ which includes the Minerals Local Plan. This is a relatively recent document and was adopted in 2014. It is unclear at the moment, because no planning application has been received, how the Morses Lane proposal would accord with the Minerals Local Plan. For example on Page 53 of the plan it states :
- Proposals for new aggregate recycling facilities, whether non-strategic or in the form of SARS, should be located on the main road network in proximity to the Key Centres of Basildon, Chelmsford, Colchester, and Harlow. Such proposals shall be permitted in the following preferred locations, provided they do not cause unacceptable highway harm, are environmentally acceptable and in accordance with other policies in the Development Plan for Essex:
- a) on major demolition and construction sites (on a temporary basis);
- b) within permanent waste management sites;
- c) in commercial areas used for general industrial or storage purposes, subject to compatibility with neighbouring land-uses;
- d) on appropriate previously developed land;
- e) on current mineral workings and landfill sites provided the development does not unduly prejudice the agreed restoration timescale for the site and the use ceases prior to the completion of the site; and
- f) within major allocated or permitted development areas (as set out in the Development Plan for Essex)
When the planning application is submitted it will come before Brightlingsea Town Council as a statutory consultee. The Council will then call a public meeting prior to formally responding to the application.
(Ben Smith MSc is currently a Brightlingsea Town Councillor and was previously the Cabinet Member for Waste & Minerals at Northamptonshire County Council. He is also a former member of the Local Government Association Waste Management Executive. While Brightlingsea Town Council continues to object to the proposal the detailed views expressed above are those of the author and not necessarily the views of the whole Council.)