BCAG Open Letter – Trafford Council & BREP Planning Variation Application
It has come to BCAG’s attention that the proposed agenda for the Trafford Council Planning Committee of 10th December 2015 currently includes the application 86514/VAR/15 for Peel’s proposed BREP incinerator.
The associated Committee Report has only just been uploaded online (dated Wednesday 2nd December 2015).
On 27th October 2015 several people from BCAG met with Trafford Council planning officers, Cllr Andrew Western and Cllr Michael Young to ask questions of the officers’ understanding of the purposes and practical implications of the planning variation.
A general overview was provided, but no specific details concerning air pollution were available beyond the applicant’s own submissions, opinions and assertions; BCAG were informed that the Council’s pollution team were in the process of assessing the information, as part of the normal procedures.
Several specific air pollution risks and implications were raised by BCAG in the course of that conversation, directly relating to details of the variation, whereby the variation itself might in fact make the dreadful air pollution situation and additional pollution from the incinerator even worse, not better. BCAG made very clear that it was of upmost importance that the officers’ air pollution assessments had the opportunity to properly include those and other questions and, given the volume and nature of the complex information in the applicant’s submission and the unanswered questions, that a meeting with the pollution officers as part of their assessment process would be needed before BCAG could properly provide its considered consultation response.
BCAG understands that part of the reason for the delay in that meeting being arranged is the decision by Trafford Council to change the air pollution team – including the departure of the Council’s main contact person with BCAG for previous meetings on air pollution.
A meeting date is still in the process of being finalised, but the available dates provided to BCAG by the Council’s officers are after the 10th December planning meeting.
You will be aware of the need for the planning process to be conducted properly and fairly, with due regard to the legal, health and other rights of residents directly affected by the decisions.
I would therefore urgently and respectfully request that the application 86514/VAR/15 for Peel’s proposed BREP incinerator be removed from the agenda of the 10th December planning meeting and postponed to a more appropriate future date, on the following reasonable grounds:
- The Council’s air pollution assessment process (which is a material consideration for planning purposes) has not included the requested meeting with BCAG to address the specific air pollution risks and implications raised by BCAG in the course of the 27th October meeting, directly relating to details of the variation, whereby the variation might in fact make the air pollution situation even worse, not better.
- BCAG’s consultation response has not been included in the Council’s air pollution assessment process, since the consultation response has been needing to wait for the meeting with air pollution officers to better understand the full details of the air pollution implications and provide relevant input to the Council’s assessment process. BCAG are also still awaiting responses to related emails.
- It is, in the view of BCAG, unnecessary and unreasonable to timetable applications relating to extremely sensitive and high profile issues at one of the busiest times of the year, in the run up to Christmas and New Year, thereby increasing the likelihood of more people finding it significantly more difficult to participate and exercise their rights.
- The overall consultation process itself has been in material respects inadequate, including and beyond even the above specific points. Some/many (or all?) affected residents have not even received formal notification of the application, information appears not to have been included in the Messenger local paper (the Advertiser is not received by all residents in the area), public notices do not appear to have been posted to the same extent as was the case for the original application. The bottom line is that there are many people who will be directly affected who still have no idea that this planning variation exists and, due to previous extensive publicity materials in the area, many are still in the unfortunate position of having been led to believe that the incinerator plans are not going ahead. This means that as things stand there would be strong grounds for legal challenge on the basis of the consultation process itself for this variation application.
- Unless there is some timetable and imperative that BCAG is currently unaware of, there is no immediate, overriding urgency that demands the Council include this application on the agenda for 10th December. Therefore, to do so would be a deliberate choice that would in effect be to dismiss the above, reasonable points. In fact, the Committee Report makes an interesting claim that “the permission must be implemented within four years from the date of the decision letter rather than three (i.e. by 15th May 2017)”. Without prejudice to any legal opinion as to whether this is in fact correct or not, prima-facie there is no immediate, legal urgency that should be entitled to override the need for the planning process to be conducted properly and fairly, with due regard to the legal, health and other rights of residents directly affected by the decisions.