Councillors ‘shocked’ as 15-year extension to landfill approved

A major waste firm has been given the go-ahead to operate a landfill site for a further 15 years than originally consented after it won its appeal against a local council’s decision to block the move, sparking outrage from local councillors.

Milton Keynes Council in 2020 rejected an application from FCC Environment for planning permission to continue operating its Bletchley site after its existing permission expired in 2022.

The Labour and Liberal Democrat-run council had hoped to create a country park on the land.

In refusing the application, it said the impacts of the landfill site on living conditions were “odour, fly infestation and disturbance caused by HGV activity”.”

However, a planning inspector this month ruled that the landfill could continue to operate until 2037, finding that “unacceptable effects on residents’ living conditions has not been conclusively demonstrated”.

The inspector found that odour issues reported by residents between September 2020 and March 2021 were identified as having originated from landfill gas. As a result, remedial action was taken by the appellant and the issue was resolved, it noted. It added that since April 2021 a small number of complaints had been received by the Environment Agency (EA) which have not been substantiated.

However, Labour councillor Emily Darlington noted that the council does not use the landfill for its own residents’ waste.

“Why should we have to put up with importing others’ waste from as far away as London?

“The council was right to stand up for residents,” she said.

Councillor Ethan Kelly-Wilson, chair of Bletchley and Fenny Stratford Town Council, told the MK Citizen: “As a dad raising my son in Newton Leys, I am shocked that the inspector disregarded the impact on the local community. We need the planned country park and Blue Lagoon extension now. Instead, my son will be an adult by the time the landfill closes and this is delivered. This is a loss to an entire generation.”

In the decision notice, the planning inspector said that “while there was an imperative to divert biodegradable municipal waste away from landfill, there will continue to be a need for such facilities to dispose of residual waste for which there is no other option for treatment”. 

The inspector said that evidence suggested that Bletchley landfill provides a facility of strategic importance within the South-East, which would likely to continue as other landfills come to the end of their life.

It added that the EA had advised “strongly against leaving the site unfinished”, because this  would result in a long-term surface water management issue.

“If the centre of the site was left to fill with water this would risk damage to pollution control infrastructure and pose a risk of pollution to air, land and water,” it said.

The inspector said that the council must cover the costs accrued by FCC Environment to submit its appeal, as the authority’s decision to initially refuse planning permission was “unreasonable”.

A spokeswoman for FCC Environment told the BBC it was “entirely satisfied with the ruling of the inspector”.

“In relation to the costs awarded, we are preparing a submission as permitted under the costs application and this will be submitted to the council in due course,” she said.