MP frustrated after inquiry into “a monstrous blight on the Green Belt” postponed

PUBLISHED: 12:09 07 February 2018 | UPDATED: 12:09 07 February 2018

Fire at Wood Recycling Services, Appspond Lane, Potters Crouch

Fire at Wood Recycling Services, Appspond Lane, Potters Crouch

IAN DAVIES

St Albans MP Anne Main has expressed her frustration about the continued existence of “a monstrous blight on the Green Belt” after a public inquiry was delayed.

The huge pile of wood on Appspond Lane remains despite intervention from the Environment AgencyThe huge pile of wood on Appspond Lane remains despite intervention from the Environment Agency

Mrs Main was referring to Appspond Lane waste site, which the Herts Advertiser recently named as one of the worst parts of the Green Belt in the district.

Herts County Council ordered all waste removed from the Potters Crouch site in October 2016, but landowners Navitas Environmental Limited appealed and a public inquiry was scheduled for December last year.

However the inquiry had to be postponed due to the illness of one of the council’s expert witnesses.

“We cannot let this go,” Mrs Main declared.

The huge pile of wood on Appspond Lane remains despite intervention from the Environment AgencyThe huge pile of wood on Appspond Lane remains despite intervention from the Environment Agency

“The Appspond Lane scandal has been rumbling on for years. When we are considering the Green Belt in the Local Plan, we must remember parts of it are blighted by eye-sores.

“There are still 9,000 tonnes on the site, and the slow progress is simply unacceptable. The site is not only a monstrous blight on the Green Belt, but it’s a fire hazard.”

Around 10,000 tonnes of recycled wood stored at the site caught alight in November 2012, leaving a huge bonfire next to the M1 motorway and smoke across local roads until February 2013, and the company’s owner Joshua O’Malley was given a four-month suspended sentence.

Mrs Main said: “Recycling sites must be used for recycling, not for dumping. When the vast majority of people dispose of their waste in the proper manner, they expect it to be properly dealt with – not to sit there permanently blighting their Green Belt.”

She has asked the government what steps are being taken to monitor compliance with regulations at exposed wood recycling plants, like Appspond.

Environment minister Dr Thérèse Coffey responded: “Businesses managing waste wood, including wood recycling plants, must have an environmental permit issued by the Environment Agency (EA).

“Smaller and lower risk wood recyclers are exempt from a permit, but must register a T6 waste exemption with the EA.

“There are currently 24,419 registered T6 waste exemptions. Due to their low risk status these sites are not routinely monitored. The EA carried out 127 inspections of these facilities in 2017, after their performance raised concerns.

“A current government consultation is seeking views on changes to the T6 waste exemption as there is evidence it can be abused.”

The public inquiry into Appspond has now been scheduled for Tuesday, July 10.

HCC’s cabinet member for environment Derrick Ashley said: “We are committed to trying to ensure that all of the waste material on the site at Appspond Lane is removed. We therefore have taken formal enforcement action which has meant an appeal and public inquiry.

“Although the public inquiry was originally scheduled to take place back in December it was beyond our control that this had to be postponed as one of our expert witnesses from the Environment Agency was unwell and unable to attend the inquiry to give evidence.

“The next date all parties could make was in July 2018, when we will robustly argue our enforcement action was necessary and the waste needs to be removed.

“We understand the frustrations it is taking this long, we had hoped to agree this without going down the formal enforcement route but were unable to progress this with the site owner.”

Navitas Environment had previously been given permission from the Environment Agency to put a biomass boiler - also known as a wood-fuelled heating system - on the site, but this was strongly opposed by residents

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