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The company behind a controversial waste plant has been granted planning permission to build a sprinkler tank and pump house.
Hywel NMP has said the features will be used solely to store water in case of a fire – and for “no other purpose”.
The updates to the site, on Nine Mile Point Industrial Estate in Cwmfelinfach, were approved by Caerphilly County Borough Council on January 13.
Planning permission was sought following a change in Natural Resources Wales’ (NRW) regulations, meaning the waste plant now has to comply with additional measures.
These measures did not exist when the original planning permission was granted in 2015.
This planning application received three letters of objection, but the waste plant itself has been subjected to lengthy campaigns and protests against it.
The application states: “The application for consideration is not an opportunity to consider the waste recycling facility on the site which has been previously considered.”
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What is the plant?
Plans for the new waste treatment facility on Nine Mile Point Industrial Estate were approved by the council’s planning committee in December 2015.
Hazrem Environmental Ltd, the company initially behind the waste plant, previously said up to 100,000 tonnes of waste would be processed annually at the site, including the sorting and segregating of waste for recycling and the production of fuel.
Campaigners have argued that council officers should have asked Hazrem to carry out an environmental impact assessment before the decision was put to the council’s planning committee.
In not doing so, council officers rendered “any subsequent planning consent unlawful”, the Lower Sirhowy Valley Residents Group has said.
Earlier this year, the site of the proposed waste plant was sold by Hazrem to its directors, who in turn sold it to Hywel NMP.
Hywel NMP was set up in January this year and is backed by private equity investment firm Foresight Group, which is based in the Shard in London.
The story so far
December 9, 2015 – Hazrem’s plans to build a waste treatment facility at Nine Mile Point Industrial Estate is approved by the council’s planning committee.
Campaigners against the plans stage a protest outside the council offices in Tredomen.
July 2016 – Campaigners submit around 700 formal letters of complaint to Natural Resources Wales (NRW) about the plans
September 2016 – NRW says it is consulting further with Public Health Wales over the application by Hazrem.
September 2016 – Dr Gillian Richardson, who was then-Executive Director of public health at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUHB), wrote to NRW, warning that the plant’s emissions could affect local resident’s health, citing temperature inversion in the valley.
January 2017 – NRW turns down an environmental permit application for the waste plant, citing a potential “negative impact on the health of people living in the area”.
The move is welcomed by Chris Evans MP and Rhianon Passmore MS, as well as Ynysddu’s councillors at the time – Jan Jones and Philippa Marsden, who is now leader of the council.
August 2017 – NRW u-turns over its decision to reject the environmental permit application, following an appeal from Hazrem.
NRW says it will not contest the appeal, saying Hazrem included “extra technical information” in the appeal, which caused NRW to change its stance.
Rhianon Passmore MS criticises NRW and pledges to continue fighting against the plans.
September 2017 – Lower Sirhowy Valley Residents Group begins to look for £3,000 to cover legal fees as it aims to continue its opposition to the plans. The group launches a formal objection against Hazrem’s appeal for a licence to build the waste plant. A protest is held on the steps of the Senedd in Cardiff Bay.
October 2017 – A two-day public inquiry is held at Blackwood Rugby Club. A letter by Hollywood actor Michael Sheen is read out at the inquiry, describing the situation as “especially alarming”.
Roger Tunstall, representing NRW, said the body had “found no grounds to defend the initial refusal” following a “full and thorough consideration of the appeal”.
December 2017 – The waste plant is given the go-ahead by the Planning Inspectorate. A Planning Inspectorate report said NRW had based its decision on “worst case scenario” figures.
Chris Evans MP and Rhianon Passmore MS say the community has been “totally ignored” over the decision.
February 2018 – Residents hold a torchlit protest march at Nine Mile Point to continue the campaign against the waste plant. Attendees include Chris Evans MP, Cllr Philippa Marsden and former Islwyn MP Don Touhig.
Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, writes to NRW asking it to demonstrate how the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act is being applied during the environmental permitting process.
August 2018 – Chris Evans MP calls for a review into NRW following its handling of Hazrem’s environmental permit. He says NRW has “failed my constituents on a number of occasions”.
December 2020 – Residents group submits a Freedom of Information request to the council. After receiving a response, Dr David Platt, of the residents group, said: “We started to suspect that a mistake had been made by the planning officers back in 2015”.
January 2021 – Hywel NMP, which is backed by London-based private equity firm Foresight Group, is set up. Hazrem would later sell the site of the proposed waste plant to its directors, who would later sell it on to Hywel NMP.
February 2021 – Residents group writes to the council suggesting three ways it can overturn the decision to grant planning permission to the waste plant. Included is the suggestion the council takes itself to judicial review – which would avoid compensation having to be paid out to Hazrem should the decision be overturned.
March 2021 – Council responds to letter from residents group, saying it is seeking its own legal advice – and that the residents group may have to wait several months for a reply.
Dr David Platt prepares to take the council to judicial review himself, due to concerns the council is “dragging its feet” over the issue.
May 2021 – The council’s Plaid Cymru and Independent groups call for clarity from the council over the situation, while, campaigners protest in Risca.
August 2021 – Dr David Platt’s application for a judicial review is turned down by a judge, but Dr Platt opts to renew the case, with a court date set in September to determine whether or not the council is taken to a judicial review.
September 2021 – Dr David Platt’s application for a judicial review is rejected by the High Court.
Caerphilly County Borough Council issues a statement to “set the record straight” over “inaccurate and misleading claims that are circulating in the community”.
Council leader Philippa Marsden says it’s “time to move forward and heal the divisions in the community”.
October 2021 – Council launches internal investigation into the planning permission given to the waste plant. Campaigners say nothing will change despite the investigation. Internal investigation concludes on October 22.
November 2021 – A motion calling on an external independent investigation into the planning permission is tabled by Blackwood independent councillor Kevin Etheridge. It is rejected by councillors in a heated full council meeting.
January 2022 – Hywel NMP granted planning permission to build an onsite sprinkler tank and pump house.
Additional reporting by the Local Democracy Reporting Service
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