Hertfordshire County Council accused of hypocrisy over waste site fight

HERTFORDSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL has been branded “two-faced” after launching a High Court appeal against a waste and recycling centre, while at the same time trying to build a 380,000-tonne incinerator in Hatfield.

HERTS County Council has been branded “two-faced” by anti-incinerator campaigners – after the authority launched a legal challenge against a waste and recycling plant in Hitchin.

Despite its own plans for a 380,000-tonne incinerator at New Barnfield in Hatfield – which would see up to 180 vehicles travel to and from the site every day – the council wants to restrict lorry movements at Waste and Metals Recycling in Wallace Way, Hitchin.

This week, the council launched an appeal against a High Court decision not to impose restrictions on the company, claiming the ruling impeded on local authorities’ ability to make planning decisions.

But incinerator protesters have branded the appeal nimbyism, and accused the council of putting the interests of Hitchin residents above special needs students at Southfield School, in Travellers Lane, Hatfield.

Paul Zukowskyj, from Hatfield Against Incineration, said: “The council are unbelievably two-faced on this.

“Politicians are supposed to stand up for the vulnerable, the poor, the needy and disadvantaged – they’re doing the exact opposite.

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“They should ask themselves why they think house prices in Hitchin are more important than the health of disabled kids in Hatfield. Their attitude appears to be utterly repulsive.”

Metal and Waste began 30 years ago as scrap yard H Williams & Sons. It was bought in 2003 by GD Metal Recycling, and changed its name to Metal and Waste in 2005.

The council, supported by Hitchin residents and North Herts District Council, argues the site is now a full-blown waste plant, and should change its use to reflect that.

County councillor Richard Thake, executive member for environment and community safety, said: “We’re challenging a decision which fundamentally impacts on the way local authorities deal with planning.

“This is against the conclusion that an increase in lorries, noise or dust is not capable, however significant, of constituting a material change of use.

“The implication is that a site could continue to increase and intensify, resulting in adverse environmental effects, but if there were no change to the type of physical activity on site, there would be no material change of use.”

Asked how the council could justify imposing restrictions on one waste site while trying to create another, Cllr Thake said: “That’s a very premature attitude to take.

“I don’t see the council taking a stance against what we see as an impediment to local authorities dealing with planning as having any relationship to our obligations to make waste provisions.

“The Hatfield project is yet to go to planning, and if rules are changed for one it means rules are changed for the other.

“It [the incinerator] is not a foregone conclusion. If it’s not passed then we’ll be sending a lot more waste to landfill and the concomitant cost will go to the taxpayer.”

Both Cllr Thake and Cllr Derrick Ashley, the executive member for waste management and a proponent for the Hatfield incinerator, live in Hitchin, leading to claims of nimbyism by incinerator opponents.

But Cllr Thake hit back, saying: “Neither councillor Ashley nor I will be making this [incinerator] decision.

“It’s made by the development control committee and we are not it.”