MP introduces bill to control odorous emissions from landfill sites

Aaron Bell, MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme, has introduced a private member’s bill in the House of Commons yesterday, in a bid to set limits for odorous emissions from landfill sites.

The bill also proposes that planning permission should not be granted to landfill sites within 500 metres of a built up area, as well as halving the annoyance measure of hydrogen sulphide emissions of 7 micrograms per cubic metre (over 30 minutes). Residents would also receive compensation from site operators if emissions are exceeded. 

This comes in the midst of growing discontent over the odour emitted from Walley’s Quarry, Silverdale, a landfill site in Bell’s constituency. 

A record number of complaints about the smell have been made by local residents in recent weeks, with “2,000 individual reports of odour over the same weekend”, as revealed by Bell in his motion. Keele University and Royal Stoke University Hospital were among the complainants. 

Walley’s Quarry is operated by Red Industries, and has planning permission to receive waste until 2026, when it will be capped. The site is unusually close to housing and the local council stated in February that it “has been highly controversial for several years now”.

The Environment Agency (EA) also found the site to be in breach of its permit, after finding surface water had collected in the waste, and then drained which “must be managed as contaminated water”. The regulator called for this water to be treated on site or removed by a tanker. 

The levels of hydrogen sulphide emissions from the site are lower than the WHO guidelines for human health, which are limited to 150 micrograms per cubic metre over a 24 hour period. Newcastle-under-Lyme reached a peak of 44.5 in the last exercise, according to Bell. 

However, Bell’s motion in parliament yesterday showed the issue was widespread. He said, “It seems apparent from consulting with other right hon. and hon. members that there are plenty of other landfills in inappropriate locations around the country causing similar distress—indeed, outrage—to their communities.” ENDS found that landfills in England breached their permits more than 2,000 times in 2018, the second highest total for a regulated sector.

Bell has previously called the Environment Agency “a little bit toothless” in dealing with landfill odour. In his bill, he said that “We also need to get into the 21st century and stop relying on a human sniff test” and the proposed legislation “would strengthen their rights and give the EA a much stronger hand in dealing with problems when they arise”.

However, Bell is not optimistic that the legislation will be passed. He said, "I must stress to constituents at the outset that there is next-to-no chance of this bill, as presented, passing through parliament and becoming law. Realistically, there is rarely time for such bills to be considered beyond the introductory stage.”

In a video on Facebook and Twitter, Bell visited St Giles’ and St George’s Church of England Academy Primary School, where headteacher Mrs Pointon described her first day back at school, having “to keep the children out who had arrived early and open all the windows and the doors to let the smell out before I could let the children into the building”.

In October 2020, Red Industries complained to the Conservative Party about MP Aaron Bell’s “unwarranted, unfair and sustained” attacks, “victimising” the business, according to the Stoke Sentinel.


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