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Inspector says no to gasification plant off Green Lane, Salford, Greater Manchester

Congratulations to locals for getting the 80,000 tonne Gasification-type incinerator intended for C&I waste from the Greater Manchester area turned down by a planning inspector. Proposed by Manchester Properties / Energos for the “Green Lane Eco Park” off Green Lane, Salford.

Update: The applicant has now launched a s288 legal challenge against the Inspector’s decision.

See for the decision notice.

Interesting passages include:

47. The proposed EfW would comprise large structures and a 55 m high stack. The activity and movement of distinctive waste carrying HGVs would again identify the use as processing waste, notwithstanding that the plant would be set back from Green Lane. These vehicles would use the same access off Green Lane as that proposed for the MRF/AD facility. The stack would have an adverse influence on the residential and recreation area the other side of the motorway because it would be prominent in views above the motorway embankment. In terms of the character of the area, I do not consider that local residents would perceive the proposed stack for a waste facility to be comparable to that which might apply to a stack associated with a hospital, as was suggested by the appellant. This activity and land use would be out of keeping with the mixed industrial/residential character of the area. It would create an awkward juxtaposition of waste processing with nearby residential development and the tourism/leisure use of the Canal. This would result in a high magnitude of change to the townscape. I consider that the proposed EfW facility and activity
associated with it would have a substantial adverse impact on the character of the area.

49. I acknowledge that a likely fall back position for the appeal site in the event that the appeals were dismissed might reasonably include industrial development that would be served by some HGVs. However, any industrial use for the appeal site would be likely to obtain planning permission only if it respected the character of the area. It seems to me unlikely that any such development, in terms of its impact on the character of the area, would be comparable to that which would result from waste management facilities of the nature and scale proposed in the appeal schemes. I note that the Companion Guide to Planning Policy Statement 10 (PPS10CG) comments that most waste management activities are now suitable for industrial locations, particularly where they are enclosed in purpose-designed buildings. It adds that with advancement in mitigation techniques, some waste facilities may also be considered as light industrial in nature and therefore compatible with residential
development. However, the area that contains the appeal site is not just an industrial location because of the proximity of residential development, and the influence of the Canal, with its potential for recreation and tourism. Furthermore, the uses proposed in the appeal schemes are not comparable to light industry.

53. The artist’s impression from Viewpoint g shows the extent to which the proposed plant, including the stack, would be apparent notwithstanding the existing trees on the triangular land edged blue. The nature of the use would be apparent from the towpath because of the type of HGVs that would be seen using the access off Green Lane. This, associated with the utilitarian structures that would comprise the proposed facilities, would have an adverse effect on the outlook from the towpath. Given the size and nature of the proposed plant for both the schemes, there is no evidence to indicate that an appropriate design for the MRF/AD plant, and landscaping for both the MRF/AD plant and EfW facility, would overcome this harm. I consider that the magnitude of change here would be high. With high receptor ensitivity, this would result, for both appeal schemes, in a substantial adverse degree of visual impact significance in views from the Canal towpath.

54. In views from Viewpoint b: Shackleton Street Play Area the stack for either scheme would be visible above the motorway embankment. The AD plant would be evident even with the alternative tank capacity suggested at the Inquiry. This is a well used and valued play space within the urban area, and there are some houses adjoining the open space with an outlook towards the proposed development. The sensitivity of receptors here is high. I disagree with the appellant’s assessment that the magnitude of change resulting from the appeal schemes would be low. The plant and stack would appear intrusive
from this vantage point because there are currently no other significant visible signs of the industrial development on the other side of the motorway. The existence of a plume at times from the proposed stack might attract attention to the development [EN-1 advises that the visual and landscape impacts of visible plumes from chimney stacks should be taken into account]. The utilitarian plant seen above the embankment would erode the strong sense of enclosure and containment of this important urban open space. I consider that both the appeal schemes would have a medium magnitude of change, and so would result in a moderate degree of visual impact significance from this viewpoint.

57. As outlined above, I accept that a reasonable fall back position for the appeal site might include industrial development. This would clearly have some impact on views from the Canal towpath. However, any permitted industrial development along this frontage of Green Lane, or which was visible from the Canal corridor, would need to take into account the importance of views from the towpath, in circumstances where it is likely to be a much more valued recreation and tourist route in the future. There is nothing to indicate a realistic prospect of an industrial scheme of a comparable scale, and with similar utilitarian plant and structures, and associated activity, to that of the appeal schemes, obtaining planning permission. I do not consider that the likely fall back position here would justify the visual intrusion that would result from the appeal schemes. For the reasons set out above, I find that both the appeal schemes would have an adverse moderate/substantial degree of visual impact significance.

63. Many local residents raised concerns about the effects of the proposals on air quality, and were concerned about possible plant failure or accidents. These fears are not irrational, or without foundation. There is evidence that the local population has relatively poor health profiles. The NO2 limit was breached in 2010, although the most recent data shows a substantial downturn in NO2 levels, which has not been fully explained. There is considerable concern about incineration and health, and I have had regard to the briefing by Friends of the Earth, and the report by Greenpeace [and the] British Society for Ecological Medicine. Many representations made submissions along these lines.

65. …There is no compelling evidence to find against the proposed operations on the basis of an unacceptable risk to human health from particulate emissions.

68. The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has indicated that it will be conducting research into birth outcomes in the vicinity of municipal waste incinerators, but I do not accept that this discredits the existing evidence base. The HPA’s current view is that modern, well managed incinerators make only a small contribution to local concentrations of air pollutants. It accepts that it is possible that these could have an impact on health, but such effects, if they exist, are likely to be very small and not detectable. I have also given
considerable weight to the appellant’s Health Impact Assessment, which was not challenged by the Council. I find no grounds here to apply the precautionary principle.

69. Fear and apprehension about the consequences of the proposed development for the health of local residents are material considerations in these appeals [West Midlands Probation Committee v Secretary of State for the Environment and another [1997] JPL 323 ]. I
have given these concerns some weight. However, it seems to me that these fears do not properly reflect the levels of control which would be imposed by the pollution control regime. This limits the weight that should be given to health fears in determining these appeals.

83. The proposals gain some support from the waste management objectives outlined above, but would, given the proximity of residential development, adversely affect the quality of life of the local community… Overall, I do not consider this to be the right place for this type of development, and so the appeal schemes do not accord with the aims of the WP [Local Waste Plan].

92. The supporting text to UDP Policy ST4, concerning tourist destinations, states that the Canal Corridor area will be protected from inappropriate development that could undermine its success as a tourism location because of an unsuitable use. The proposed MRF/AD and EfW schemes would be, for the reasons set out above, unsuitable uses in this location. They would be likely to undermine the success of the Canal Corridor as a tourism location, and so the appeal proposals would conflict with the aims of UDP Policy ST4.

93. The land use conflict I have identified would make the Canal a less attractive and pleasant recreation route, and this would conflict with the aims of UDP Policy ST10. This seeks to provide good quality recreation facilities that will support urban regeneration, promote social inclusion and improve the quality of life for residents of, and visitors to, the city.

111. The Framework refers to PPS10, which states that planning has an important role in delivering sustainable waste management by providing sufficient opportunities for new waste management facilities of the right type, in the right place and at the right time. For the reasons set out above, I do not consider that the appeal site is the right place for the proposed facilities. I note that the Framework provides that development should be permitted if its impacts are, or can be made, acceptable. However, in this case the proposals would not respond to the local character, and the impact of the proposed facilities could not be made acceptable. Having regard to the core principles of the Framework, I find that the proposed development in both Appeal A and Appeal B would not represent sustainable development to which the presumption in favour set out in the Framework would apply.

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