Nick Herbert welcomes decision to reject landfill site

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has welcomed the decision of a local planning committee to reject the application for a new landfill site at Rock Common near Washington, saying that landfill should be “the last resort”.

Mr Herbert was speaking after he gave evidence to West Sussex County Council's Planning Committee at County Hall in Chichester yesterday (10 February).  The Committee was considering proposals submitted by Veolia Environmental Services for the disposal of 5.5 million tonnes of rubbish at the site over the next 25 years.

Mr Herbert, who was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs last month, had urged the Committee to turn down the application, saying that a landfill site would threaten a major aquifer, damage the countryside and reduce the quality of life for residents in local villages.

Before the meeting, local campaigners braved the wind and rain to mount a peaceful protest on the steps of County Hall, where they were met by Mr Herbert.

Speaking after the decision was announced, Mr Herbert said: "I'm delighted that this application has been rejected.  The decision will come as an enormous relief to the local community who have been waiting anxiously for two years since Veolia submitted their first application.

"I'd like to pay tribute to the work of CLAG who've fought so hard to resist these proposals.  We've won an important battle but not the war.  There's likely to be an application to dump waste at Laybrook, which is obviously of huge concern to villagers in Thakeham."

Giving evidence to the Planning Committee, Mr Herbert began by saying that he was privileged to represent one of the most beautiful constituencies in England, including the villages of Washington, Ashington, Wiston, Storrington and Sullington, which would all be affected by a decision to dump waste at Rock Common.  Mr Herbert asked the Committee to note that he had not heard from a single constituent who was in favour of the proposals but that "considerable numbers" had been in touch to express their opposition.

Commenting on the protest outside County Hall, Mr Herbert said: "I'm sure the Committee will have seen the determination of members of the public who were willing to give up their morning and come along here and stand in the cold to mount a peaceful protest, such is the strength of local feeling against landfill in this village.  I really don't want you to underestimate how strongly people feel that this is the wrong proposal."

Mr Herbert said it was "inappropriate" that a landfill site should be opened in such close proximity to the boundary of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with the added possibility that it may be on the doorstep of a new national park. 

Mr Herbert went on to talk about the impact of additional HGV traffic, saying: "We already have considerable traffic problems in the South Downs with rat-running through the Downland villages, including Storrington and Washington, because of the poor transport infrastructure and we all know about the A27. 

"It would be considerably worse with the daily movement of huge lorries in and out of this area.  I don't think any of us could claim that we would be willing to accept that in our villages and I don't think that we should inflict it on these villages."

Describing the impact of a landfill site on local residents, Mr Herbert said that they would have to put up with 25 years of "constant disruption" with "the smell, flies, litter, noise and pollution".  This, he said, was something that his constituents at Small Dole, who live next to the Horton Landfill Site, had been putting up with for many years.

Mr Herbert argued that the fact that the proposed site at Washington was on a major aquifer should be reason enough to reject the application, because of the threat to water supplies, but made a number of general comments about landfill, saying: "It's said that there will be a shortage of landfill capacity but I believe that landfill should be the absolute last resort for the disposal of waste in our country.  Landfill is the most environmentally damaging way to dispose of waste. 

"The amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted is far worse than any other form of dealing with our waste.  The methane that is produced by landfill is 23 times more damaging in terms of global warming than carbon dioxide and I therefore think, in environmental terms, we should be moving towards a policy of ‘zero landfill' - to coin the expression of the united campaign that has been set up to represent villages that may be affected by landfill in West Sussex.

"I believe that the County Council should be sharing the ambition to reduce, and then eliminate, landfill in this very rural county."

In his concluding remarks, Mr Herbert said that it was unacceptable that West Sussex will have to take 2.6 million tonnes of waste from London over the next 20 years.  On the proposals for Rock Common, Mr Herbert strongly urged the Committee to reject the application from Veolia.

At the end of the meeting, the Planning Committee agreed unanimously to accept the recommendations of council officers and reject the application.

Ends

 

Notes for Editors

1. For the website of the Chanctonbury Landfill Action Group (CLAG), who have been campaigning against the proposed landfill site at Rock Common near Washington, visit http://good-golly.com/clag/.

2. Following a waste summit organised by Nick Herbert last year, CLAG, Thakeham Village Action (TVA) and the Small Dole Action Group (SDAG) joined forces to form a new campaigning organisation called Zero Landfill. For further details, visit http://www.nolaybrooklandfill.co.uk/pages/zerolandfill/.

3. The photograph (above) shows Nick Herbert (right) with CLAG Chairman John Auckland during the protest outside County Hall, Chichester.

Ed Barker