The depressing saga of the Gilberdyke landfill site continues with waste still pouring into the tip – the 100s of HGVs coming through Newport and particularly along the residential Thimble Hall Lane bringing in the waste is intolerable for the local community.
At a recent public meeting there was uninimous support for looking to take legal action regarding the operation of the Tip.
Over the last month the level of the tip has been reduced slightly and the top levelled as a result of enforcement action by the Environment Agency (EA), meaning that the villages of Newport and Gilberdyke are overlooked by their very own Table Mountain, reaching up into the sky to a height over twice the permitted level in the ERYC planning consent – so we have the unbelievable situation where the EA has enforced a height on the tip that is way above the legal limit of the planning consent – in the eyes of many it appears the Agency have acted unlawfully.
This is compounded by the amounts of waste blown out of the trucks littering the highway verges and gardens, to say nothing of the overpowering stench coming from the site.
The residents have had enough and well over a hundred attended a public meeting held in Newport on Saturday (14th April) where it was decided they take things into their own hands by investigating the possibility of using a firm of environmental solicitors with a proven track record to take action on their behalf in view of the lack of effective enforcement action. A recent high court ruling would suggest that there is a good case against those responsible for what the villagers have had to suffer over past year. There is also a possibility that this may be on a “no win, no fee” basis.
It was explained that the primary purpose of the meeting was to establish if residents supported taking legal action to claim compensation for nuisance. Given the limited notice of the meeting and the fact that only residents living in close proximity to the tip were invited, attendance of over a hundred and a dozen or so apologies suggested that there is widespread support, and the decision to pursue things further was totally unanimous.
Newport Parish Council Chairman Roy Hunt said, “The option of legal action is at an early stage, but solicitors have been contacted who are in the process of obtaining information and documentation from a range of sources, including the Environment Agency (EA) and the East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC)”.
It was made clear that a decision still had to be made against whom potential litigation could be served, and that the decision would be a complex one. It was also agreed that although the preference would be to proceed on a no-win, no-fee basis, it might be that some costs would need to be incurred by residents who wanted to be included in a class action for damages.
Roy Hunt continued to give the background to two successful legal actions; the first against a company in Hartlepool, where a class action by the residents influenced the closing of the tip. The second was against Biffa where it is now established in law that air pollution is considered a nuisance in the legal definition for which damages can be awarded to residents who are adversely affected.
I explained how important it was that so many people had attended as it sent out a clear message that enough was enough, and that although the enforcement processes surrounding the Tip was complex something had to be done. There was confusion as to whether the planning conditions referred to the pre-settlement heights at the time the tip is completed or the post-settlement levels after 25 years. In my opinion it was ridiculous to expect that after 25 years if the Tip had not settled to the agreed heights then it would be opened up and waste removed to ensure the planning consent was complied with.
I also stated that it was beyond comprehension that the Environment Agency had enforced their own permit condition regarding the tip height, which was over twice the height of the legal height in the Council’s planning consent and questioned whether it was lawful for them to have done this.
I concluded by asking if people agreed with me that the priority was time related and that the Tip be closed and capped off as soon as possible, the HGV movements to and from the site to stop, and a suitable gas management system installed to deal with landfill gases – there was unanimous support for this. The majority did not want to see waste having to be removed from the site in the event of enforcement, although there were a significant minority who indicated they would like to see the company compelled to remove waste to satisfy the height condition in the planning consent.
Residents were asked to give their contact details if they felt that they had suffered from nuisance as a result of the landfill site being in operation and if they felt they would be willing to contribute to a “fighting fund” should one be necessary to pursue an action. It is thought all provided their details and a number were willing to contribute.