Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Emotions run high at Gilberdyke Tip public meeting

(pictured with Newport Parish Council chairman Roy Hunt and Kevin Clifford)

This past week I was asked to chair a public meeting to consider the application by City Plant Ltd to vary some of the conditions in their Environment Agency (EA) permit to enable the Gilberdyke Tip to be closed, and for the landfill gases to be used to generate electricity on the site for the next 25 years or so.

“The meeting was very difficult because emotions about this site are, and have been for a long time, very high.  It is probably best summed up by the phrase heard more than once, “The community feels that it has been raped by the tip operators, who now begrudgingly want to be seen to be doing the right thing as tipping of waste on the site is allegedly coming to an end”.

Many thought it was all about greed and the obscene amounts of money being made by City Plant Ltd with scant regard to the misery they have created. 

Accuracy of Statements in the Application

Residents, who had read the weighty application, had noted a number of inaccuracies or to put it more bluntly untrue statements in the application.  Some were aware, and made reference to the untrue statements in the 2005 application which have caused considerable problems with interpreting approvals for heights and volumes.  It was clear from the meeting that it was in nobody's interest for this to recur.

It was suggested that it would be appropriate for City Plant Ltd to withdraw the application so that the document can be considered in more detail and presented back to the EA in such a way that it is at least consistent throughout, and carries no obvious errors or contradictions.

It was felt that the authors of the application may want to meet with residents so that these "anomalies" are bottomed out. 

Should the company refuse, then it seems appropriate that the EA should reject the application on the basis that it is not possible to judge the application properly in its present form.

Environmental Considerations 

Considerable doubt was cast on how the Leachate, Surface Water and Landfill Gas would be handled on the site.

There was concern about how the landfill gases are to be dealt with over future years, the options of simply burning off the gas or using is to generate electricity were both considered.  Both methods have the potential to create harm to residents and it was agreed to ask an Environment Agency scientist to come and answer residents’ concerns about harmful emissions.

Apart from the environmental concerns about how the gas is dealt with, there was a very strong feeling that any income from the generation of electricity from waste that has been unlawfully tipped should flow at least in part to the local community to try and undo the damage to the villages. This is something that will need to be handled by ERYC via a 106 agreement. There was a suggestion that a significant percentage of the gross income from electricity generation be given annually to Gilberdyke and Newport parish councils.

A working group of residents was established to look at all environmental aspects of the application, which will put together a community consultation reply and communicate concerns directly with the EA and ERYC.

Capping and Landscaping

The unanimous view of the residents who attended the meeting was that the community want a capping solution that includes trees to be planted across the flanks and plateau of the site. They would prefer to include in the mix of species to be planted on the plateau trees that can have TPO's applied to them to reduce the risk that the site could be opened up again at any point in the future.

The type of capping was also raised and discussed at length. Concern was expressed about the use of Bentonite rather than clay, and whether a Bentonite capping would adapt and not shear or pull apart due to the change of profile as the mound suffers substantial differential settlement over the ensuing years as the recently deposited waste settles by perhaps as much as 30% - whilst the oldest parts of the tip settles by as little as 5%.  There were fears that if the capping is ruptured it would introduce considerable leakage of rainwater into the waste pile, causing pollution. It appears that the City Plant Ltd consultants TerraConsult may well be aware of this.

Another working group of residents was established to look at the capping and landscaping to again feed into a community consultation reply.

Conflict between EA and ERYC Approvals

It was confirmed that as well as the application to vary the permit conditions made to the EA, a retrospective planning application is to be submitted imminently to the ERYC to regularise the heights and landscaping.  Concern was raised that there was a risk of the two approvals being out of synch. Because the ERYC Officers can only make recommendations to the planning committee, the position of the council can only be established by the Planning Committee. Normally planning applications are determined by the local council in liaison with the other agencies such as the EA. It was therefore suggested that the sensible route, to avoid a conflict between the two approvals, must be for the planning application be determined first and the EA permission must then agree entirely with the limits of the planning consent.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Environment Agency to consult with residents over Gilberdyke Landfill Site

Concern has been raised over an application by Gilberdyke Tip operators City Plant Ltd to vary the conditions of the permit under which they operate.

The reality is that tipping of waste at the site is coming to an end this was confirmed by Kevin Wanlass of City Plant on Friday, and again yesterday, who said that the tipping of waste on the site will cease in some 4 months’ time.

This is evidenced by figures provided by the company to the EA showing that as of last week there is only some 55,000 cubic meters of void space left to fill. The tipping of capping and landscaping materials will stop some months after that.The proposals being put forward by City Plant Ltd are now out for consultation with the local community, who have until 17th August 2012 (previously 10th August) to respond.

The variation of the permit will not extend the life of the site. Its main purpose is to show how the operator proposes to complete the site and bring it towards closure.The proposals have been communicated to residents via an EA Newsletter delivered to houses in the area. Although the weighty application document has not been widely accessible, it is available in electronic form.
The main variations requested by City Plant Ltd are:
· They want to increase the amount of waste which they are permitted to bring onto the site every year from 70,000 tonnes to 200,000 tonnes.
· They want to alter the contours of the site as described in the permit. This would enable them to keep the contours of the site as they are now. They also want to install gas engines as part of improvements to the gas management of the site (to generate electricity from the landfill gas).
The consultation is on the second of the above with the first, regarding tonnages, being somewhat retrospective as the original draft proposal was put forward by City Plant Ltd as long ago as last November. Quite clearly we have seen HGV movements over recent months well in excess of those expected if tipping was limited to 70,000 tonnes per annum. In fact vehicle movements to the site have been slowly falling over recent weeks. The levels of up to 20m that are being asked for are broadly those as of now. These were enforced by the EA at the beginning of the year.

There are some new issues around how the site is to be capped off using a geotextile type bentonite carpet or membrane covered with topsoil rather than the clay capping and top soil approved currently. There are also some changes to the landscaping, and there is the installation of the generators that are to utilise the landfill gases for the next 25 years or so, all of which I have concerns about and will be looking for independent reassurances.

The company appear to want to get the generators up and running as soon as possible to start raking in the cash – it is my understanding that for them to do this the site will have to be capped and formally closed off.

In a nutshell it appears the Environment Agency’s leaflet has created undue concern, when in fact the request to increase the tipping from 70,000 tonnes to 200,000 tonnes per year is more like a crossing of the t’s and a dotting of the i’s.

City Plant Ltd has also confirmed that the long awaited planning application to regularise the height and contours of the site and a restorative plan are to be submitted to the ERYC next week.

I am told that both the application to the EA to vary the conditions and the planning application contain the same facts, figures and drawings unlike previously, and I hope that this time both can be dealt with simultaneously and without any contradictions.

I have a copy of the application submitted to the Environment Agency by City Plant Ltd which I can certainly email to anyone who wants it – but please beware this is a long and somewhat technical document.

A public meeting is to be held on Wednesday 18th July at 7:30pm in Newport Village Hall to enable a community response to the request to vary the EA permit conditions be formulated and agreed.

Monday, July 09, 2012

North Cave post office re-opens in local shop

(The first customer of the new North Cave post office Mr Eric Howard & with Maria Shelton)

Some really fantastic news for the people of North Cave, who have got their post office back this morning.

It was less than 6 months ago that the long standing Post Office in the village closed, this a couple of years after the village also lost the cash machine when the HSBC refused to reinstall the machine after a botched robbery.

Well done to North Cave shop owners Maria and Paul Skelton for incorporating the Post Office Local facility into their village shop, I looked into the business case with them and it’s not that they will make a fortune out of this – especially with the post office counter taking over a significant amount of space previously used for retail. It’s very much credit to them for giving something back to the village.

The new Post Office Local will offer almost the range of services offered by the recently closed post office, including the taxing of vehicles – but will be open much longer, so people will be able to access post office services in the early morning and evening as well as through the day, and over the weekend too.

There is also a free to use cash machine facility as part of the deal which compensates for the loss of the HSBC machine, unfortunately this will not be available to HSBC customers – which seems to be another good reason for North Cave residents to switch from HSBC to a bank where they can get cash from a machine in their village.

This is very much a positive for North Cave, well done to the residents and all those who supported the shop in taking on the Post Office – we have seen a Post Office Local established in nearby Eastrington during the last 18 months which is continuing to grow, and I see no reason why this will not be the case in North Cave.

So again well done, and many thanks to Maria and Paul Skelton – and I wish them the very best of luck with this.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Using pedal power to save East Riding council tax payers money

My East Riding of Yorkshire Council ward of Howdenshire, stretching to 15 separate parishes is geographically one of the largest in the county, and it does take a bit of getting around. Many will know that over recent months I have been on a ‘journey of enlightenment’ travelling over 2,300 miles on my trusty steed (pictured). Most of which has been over bridleways, tracks and trails, only using the roads to join them up.
These past two months I have taken this one step further and ditched the car and truck as much as possible for council business and pedalled around the area to Parish Councils, School Governor meetings, wind farm meetings, and appointments with residents, admittedly sometimes arriving a little windswept and dishevelled not to mention unconventionally dressed in a day-glo shirt, tracksuit pants and trainers (although I’ve always changed into a clean shirt in order maintain a little elegance!) however, it has certainly provoked many interesting comments, many of them referring to the state of roads and bridleways, potholes, & puddles, which of course I now see at close quarters!
Obviously all this means I’m fitter and healthier, but additionally I have not claimed the same mileage as when using the car – This has resulted in my last month’s travel expenses plummeting to the lowest ever for a normal month – which is a saving to the East Riding Council tax payer.
Please don’t worry, fear not, I’m not turning into some sort of eco warrior and will not be changing my views on so called ‘green’ issues – I’m just enjoying being fitter and inadvertently saving the East Riding taxpayers money in the process.
A certain Mr Norman Tebbit said something about 'getting on your bike' back in '81 - I'm not sure this is what he meant though!


Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Matthew Grove Conservative Police & Crime Commissioner Candidate visits Howden Show

Welcoming Matthew Grove, Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner candidate for Humberside to Howden show.  Almost everyone we spoke to said "anyone but Lord John Prescott and that they wanted a Police Commissioner for the whole area not just for Hull"

Wind farms on 3 sides of Spaldington - some perverse joke?

RWE nPower renewables took the opportunity to hold two consultation exhibitions over the weekend, at Spaldington and Holme on Spalding Moor, where they displayed their plans for the River Valley scheme - a large wind farm consisting of 8 x 126m high turbines proposed to be built at each side of the River Foulness, between Spaldington and Holme on Spalding Moor.
This is the third application for a wind farm near Spaldington. The 5 x 126m turbine Spaldington Airfield site has already been approved at appeal by the Government’s Planning Inspector against the wishes of the community, and the East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s Planning Committee. Fortunately the 7 x 126m turbine Spaldington Common scheme was thrown out by the Inspector, but the developer is thinking about resubmitting a two or three turbine application for the site.  So wind farms on three sides of the village – “is this some perverse joke?” as someone said at the exhibition!

Having had dealings with the other two Spaldington wind farm developers – I think it is fair to say that RWE nPower renewables are head and shoulders above the others.  They have at least tried to engage with residents and the Parish Councils, and I certainly feel they have listened to what I have said regarding distances between turbines and properties - there is no turbine planned to be located within 750m of houses.

On talking to people at the Holme on Spalding Moor exhibition the response was very mixed as one would expect, although I think people were impressed by the quality of the displays and the amount of information presented, particularly with the 3D modelling showing views from all angles and elevations, and from all properties.
This may well be the best application of the three, being further away from properties and residents of Spaldington and Gribthorpe not having to drive through turbines to get home – but the cumulative impact of having turbines at each side of the village is going to be a serious issue, and for me is unacceptable.

Before submitting a planning application I hope the company takes on board what they were being told at the exhibitions, particularly about access, and improves the scheme accordingly, but also looks to be more creative in how the community can benefit especially linking to other projects around the River Foulness and creating bridleways and paths aimed at boosting local tourism.

I would rather them just go away - but we have to live in the real world, and although I will find it very difficult to support another wind farm in Howdenshire and particularly near Spaldington, I know it will be tough to go against the so called National Interest and EU dictat.