DROPPINGWELL protesters chanted “stop the tip” outside Rotherham Town Hall — as the Environment Agency admitted it should have consulted the council over reopening the site.
Millmoor Juniors, whose Kimberworth pitches are next door, gave campaigners a guard of honour as they set off on a march to the town centre.
Inside the town hall, councillors clashed over whether RMBC could have done more to prevent the reopening of the former Watson’s tip, which could now have 205,000 tonnes of waste a year dumped there.
Opposition member Cllr Paul Hague said marzipan had been smelled during drilling there in 2016 — a potential sign of cyanide under the ground.
He added: “This council has the power to go on that site and drill it. If you find cyanide, you can shut it down. Why has it not been done?
“Stop blaming the Environment Agency. This council can stop that tip. My information is that the operator is in breach of planning and that the EA has acted unlawfully in issuing the permit.”
Cllr Emma Hoddinott said RMBC had pursued every route available but the situation was the making of the EA.
She encouraged Cllr Hague to bring forward any other evidence he had to help their case but he pulled five of his ten questions and left Wednesday’s meeting.
Cllr Hoddinott, cabinet member for waste and public safety, said: “It’s absolutely crazy to think the council has allowed this tip. Officers and councillors have done all we can to raise our concerns.
“It’s the Environment Agency that has done this to us. We are really, really frustrated about the situation we find ourselves in.
“In 2017, the council unanimously agreed a strongly-worded motion which was highly critical of the EA decision to grant a permit, their lack of consultation and the questionable record of the operator.
“We fully support the protesters’ cause. We call on the EA to revisit the granting of the permit.”
Cllr Hoddinott said she met with EA officers earlier this week. A letter from the Government noted that the EA had admitted it should have consulted the council — but it said this would not have “materially changed the decision”.
Earlier in the meeting, Steve McKenna, chairman of Droppingwell Action Group, presented a 1,563-name petition calling on the council to take enforcement action.
He said: “The problem is you have decided that legally you’ve gone as far as you think that you can.
“Our opinion is that you are throwing us under a bus. What about pollution, increased traffic, the unsuitability of Droppingwell Road, wildlife?
“We seem to be stuck in a never-ending cycle of Rotherham Council blaming the Environment Agency, and vice-versa.”
Mr McKenna also referred to a Labour motion, passed later in the meeting, which declared a climate change emergency.
He said: “If you’re not bothered about the current environment, why should you be bothered about the next 20 years? Are you just playing to a public audience perhaps?”
Sarah Champion MP, who has presented her own petition in parliament, said in a statement: “That the EA issued a permit without any consultation whatsoever is outrageous and an insult to residents.”
The tip was closed after a public inquiry in 1992.