Council should have acted on initial advice, claim tip campaigners

Council should have acted on initial advice, claim tip campaigners

By Michael Upton | 29/04/2021

Council should have acted on initial advice, claim tip campaigners

 

A DIFFERENCE of legal opinion from the same QC shows how the council dithered on taking a strong stance over Droppingwell tip, objectors say.

A legal brief from three years ago by Andrew Thomas, of Lincoln House Chambers, suggests a strong case against tip operators Grange Landfill.

He was asked for a new summary published by RMBC in March which said: “The prospects of making a successful challenge are low (below 20 per cent).”

Steve McKenna, chairman of Droppingwell Action Group, said: “It does seem strange why the council felt the need to do this when the legal challenges were so apparent in the first brief.

“In ignoring his advice and not taking it any further, the advice timed out. In reality, all they had to do was send the brief to the Environment Agency and invite them to comment.”

The action group released the original 27-page paper after RMBC published the new seven pages of advice.

Mr McKenna said there was no reason not to show the initial opinion “now that the council has instructed the same QC to close down any legal avenues”.

The first paper said RMBC had a statutory power under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to go on the land and establish if a breach of planning control had taken place.

“There is a good arguable case that the EA is under a duty to exercise its power to order the closure of the site,” Mr Thomas added.

“This goes beyond mere non-operation: the closure procedure involves stabilising the site with a view to working towards final closure and after-care.

“It is not appropriate to have a partially-filled site which is simply left in limbo: either it should be brought into operation (if that can be legally achieved) or the duty under the Landfill Directive is to serve closure notice.

“If the EA refuse to exercise their power to close the site, consideration can then be given to a judicial review.”

The new advice notes that the operator is “genuinely working” towards the site accepting waste again, lessening the chances based on the mistake of the Environment Agency in not serving a closure notice in 2007.

Paul Woodcock, RMBC regeneration and environment director, said: “The initial legal advice gave a number of possible options, including a judicial review, but it gave no indication of the prospect of success.

“Once the council had received this initial advice, we commissioned further work to consider each option carefully in turn and establish the likelihood of each being successful in actually preventing the tip from operating.

“We now understand that the chances of success in relation to a judicial review would be less than 20 per cent and very costly to pursue.”

Mr Woodcock added: “We continue to believe that the best way forward is for the secretary of state to intervene, and to use their powers to revoke or discontinue the permission.

“We have written on numerous occasions, but to date, they have not done so.”

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