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Town council prepares for final fight against waste incinerator

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WESTBURY Town Council has agreed the next steps in its aim to stop the construction of a proposed energy-from-waste incinerator in the town. The town council, which strongly oppose the plans, has agreed to ask its legal representatives to appoint a specialist to help identify any watertight planning objections, in preparation for when the application is next considered. 

Westbury councillors and local residents protesting against the incinerator at a Wiltshire Council’s planning meeting

Wiltshire Council, which originally agreed the plans for the incinerator, has now deferred its decision until next month, at a meeting of their strategic planning committee, which will be held on 27th July.  

Last week, the Environment Agency confirmed that it will issue a permit for Northacre Renewable Energy Ltd (NREL) to operate the incinerator, but NREL must wait for Wiltshire Council to make a decision before it can build the facility. 

At an extraordinary meeting of Westbury Town Council on 7th June, councillors also agreed not to go down the route of a judicial review should the application be approved, saying that Wiltshire Council has been shown to follow the correct legal process.  

Speaking at the extraordinary meeting, cllr Mark Bailey said, “The recommendation is that we do not go to judicial review – as we know, judicial review is not an appeal process, it’s an examination of the way the law has been applied and, as a result, it seems that we don’t really have any grounds as all the due processes have been followed. The advice is that we would have less than a 4/10 chance of it succeeding.” 

Law firm, Leigh Day solicitors, has been appointed by Westbury Town Council to help fight the incinerator application, but there was some debate by councillors over whether they were the right firm to take on the case. 

When asked if Leigh Day was the correct choice, the chair, cllr Sheila Kimmins answered, “They most certainly have experience as they dealt with the Alton incinerator in Hampshire that was eventually rejected. Leigh Day come highly recommended to us.” 

Cllr Francis Morland, who abstained from voting on any decision at the meeting said, “What Westbury Town Council needs is credible defensible reasons for refusal – it didn’t have that at the first meeting. The question is where we get advice on that, and it is my opinion that Leigh Day are specifically litigation solicitors, and they specialise in judicial review and almost nothing else – what the council needs is not advice from solicitors, but rather specialist advice from a planning consultant as well as draft reasons for refusal. Doing this through Leigh Day doesn’t seem the right way forward.” 

In response, cllr Bailey said, “We have taken advice from various campaign groups that have dealt with issues such as ours, and Leigh Day come very highly recommended. They were the lead legal team on the Hampshire incinerator which was turned down. I don’t disagree that we need to have a planning specialist, but Leigh Day has the scope to appoint one when they review national planning policy to identify any watertight planning objections.” 

The town clerk, Deborah Urch added, “UK Without Incineration Network, the organisation that opposes incinerators across the country, suggested several solicitors of which Leigh Day were in the top five. We spoke to all those solicitors and Leigh Day were the only ones that had all our criteria.” 

Cllr Gordon King said, “Cllr Morland is quite right here – the only thing that is going to defeat this is perfectly presentable and defendable reasons for refusal. Last time we tasked Leigh Day, rather late in the day, to come up with defendable reasons they failed to do so – and they might do again. But as cllr Baily outlined, the solicitors now will be given the scope to appoint a specialist who is technically competent so we can find those reasons for refusal.” 

Cllr Morland went on to say that he believes Westbury Town Council should have appointed a planning specialist “much earlier in the process” and that they should cut out Leigh Day entirely. 

In response, cllr Mike Sutton said, “It’s an interesting point that cllr Morland raises, but I’d like to remind councillors that we are currently in the first week of June and this planning process is expected to be completed by July, so I don’t think there is enough time now to change direction or who we appoint etc.  

“I have to say that it is disappointing that these reasonable arguments were not presented to the incinerator task and finish group of the town council for discussion and are now being presented almost last minute – you had plenty of opportunities to meet with the group and raise your views, but have decided to wait until now.  

“Cllr Morland is quite right that our argument last time was more emotional rather than hinging on solid planning reasons. However, something that has been overlooked, and can be found in the middle of the government’s Infrastructure Act (2015) it does say, ‘follow all the planning laws’, but adds ‘where the planning committee thinks the interests of the community override’, so this is something we may want to look into. There is still a get-out clause.”

One Response to Town council prepares for final fight against waste incinerator

  1. Michael Ryan

    June 21, 2022 at 3:35 pm

    I thought Does Collins, who fought for justice over the birth defects caused by the Corby steelworks clean-up, would be a good choice of solicitor as Corby’s infant mortality rate spiked during the same period as the birth defects. Why didn’t Corby council notice the infant mortality rate spike and settle quickly with the plaintiffs?

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