Owner of controversial waste site in St Albans ordered to clear the area

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

The huge pile of wood on Appspond Lane remains despite intervention from the Environment Agency - Credit: Archant

After years of being a blight on the countryside and the source of wood mountain blazes, an enforcement notice has been served, demanding a controversial waste site is cleared by its owner.

A spokeswoman for Herts county council (HCC) has confirmed that the authority issued a notice on Navitas Environmental Ltd on October 21 this year, which takes effect today (25).

Last year, an irritated St Albans MP, Anne Main, slammed Navitas for failing to remove an unsightly mound of wood at Potters Crouch.

She complained to the Environment Agency (EA) about the Appspond Lane waste site, located in St Albans’ Green Belt fringes, between the M1 and A414 near Hemel Hempstead.

The site has long been a source of problems for nearby residents and the authorities, as a fire which broke out in November 2012 was not fully extinguished until February 2013, and then another blaze started in June 2015.

Fumes were reported to have affected animals in the area, and residents complained of sore throats from the smoke.

The last fire prompted Anne to demand the EA show some ‘tough love’ as the facility was being turned into a “perpetual rubbish dump”.

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And now, the county council’s enforcement notice has told Navitas it “requires that all of the wood waste, together with any other wastes on the site, be removed within three months of that date (November 25).”

In a vague statement by the council, the authority told the Herts Advertiser: “The notice was issued because the continued storage of waste materials on the site conflicts with [the] Green Belt and other local and national planning policies.

“However there is a right of appeal, which needs to be lodged by November 25.”

The spokeswoman did not have details of how much wood was stored at the site, referring this paper to contact Navitas to establish how many tonnes remain there.

However, the Herts Advertiser was unable to contact the company.

But, an investigation by this paper has revealed that a petition to wind up the Dunstable-based firm was presented in the High Court on October 28 last year by Amec Foster Wheeler Environment and Infrastructure Ltd, of Birchwood, Warrington, a creditor of Navitas.

The petition was heard at the Manchester District Registry on December 14, 2015, but it was dismissed and Navitas remains an active company.

After Navitas gained an environmental permit in 2014 for the site, it promised to clear the nearly 10,000 tonnes of wood waste and told this paper two years ago that it would build a £60 million biomass boiler to process 86,000 tonnes of dry wood waste annually to generate 12MW of power.

Information gleaned from St Albans district council’s website on the legal action says HCC has issued an enforcement notice for the “unauthorised material change of use of the land, from the installation and operation of a wood-waste biomass-fuelled renewable energy plant”.

The alteration involves “a use for the importation, deposit and storage of waste, wholly unconnected to, and unsuitable for the purposes of the installation and operation of an ... energy plant at Appspond Lane,” the council added.