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High Court threat to EA on waste

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: December 18, 2013

By Caroline Chick

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ANTI-INCINERATOR campaigners are threatening to take the Environment Agency (EA) to the High Court.

Cornwall Waste Forum (CWF) St Dennis Branch claimed the agency's approach "rips the guts" out of regulations on dealing with waste in terms of their environmental impact.

CWF has fought plans to build a multimillion-pound incinerator at St Dennis, which was approved last year after a series of court appeals and hearings.

In a letter sent by CWF's solicitors, the campaign group argued the EA decision not to take enforcement action against Cornwall Council regarding its failure to comply with the waste hierarchy, brought into law in 2011, was "reached on an unlawful basis".

CWF is calling for the regulator to reconsider its stance or face a judicial review after the EA said there was no legal requirement under waste laws for the authority to collect food waste separately for recycling, as many other councils do. Instead the waste is planned for incineration.

But the group claimed there are inaccuracies and omissions in Cornwall Council's justification of its incinerator policy which were not examined by the EA.

Ken Rickard, chairman of the CWF, said: "The council, in its response to the EA, left out important information that would be needed to assess whether its position made sense, and misrepresented other important facts:

"It explained the costs it would incur if it was to separately collect food waste – but not the savings from not having to pay for its incineration or landfill;

"It argued its approach was to try to prevent food waste, but then claimed the significant waste prevention effect it expected from separate food waste collections would make such a service unviable;

"It argued a survey carried out said most householders wanted weekly refuse collections, which would limit participation in separate food waste collections – but didn't point out that both the options put forward in the survey included a weekly separate collection of food waste.

"Yet the Environment Agency did not challenge the council on any of these points, or other questionable aspects of the council's claims."

He added: "We were astonished when we received the agency's letter. Their interpretation of the law rips the guts out of the waste hierarchy – it's as good as writing it out of the law completely.

"The council's letter was a very poor justification of its approach, and we can't understand why the agency hasn't investigated the matter properly."

Paul Gainey, for the EA, said the letter from the CWF had been received.

"The agency is fully considering the contents of the letter and will be in touch with Cornwall Waste Forum in due course," he said.

The regulator has 14 days to respond to CWF's letter or the group will seek a judicial review.

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