Plans for a controversial waste plant near Cwmfelinfach are back on the agenda after Natural Resources Wales u-turned over its decision to deny operators an environmental permit.
In January, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) turned down a permit application for the plant after raising health concerns.
The environmental agency said the planned facility had “the potential to have a negative impact on the health of people living in the area” and followed advice from Aneurin Bevan University Health Board to “exercise caution” when considering whether to grant the permit.
The plant’s operators, Hazrem Environmental Ltd, has previously said up to 100,000 tonnes of waste would be processed annually at the site on Nine Mile Point Industrial Estate, including the sorting and segregating of waste for recycling and the production of fuel.
Emissions from the burning of natural gas used in an on-site drier would include nitrogen dioxide.
Hazrem submitted an appeal over the decision to reject a permit, which Natural Resources Wales has said it will no longer contest.
Anwen Davies, Principal Permitting Team Leader for NRW, said: “People’s health and wellbeing is the most important thing to consider when deciding whether or not to grant an environmental permit which is why we carefully consider any kind of effect a facility might have on the local area.
“In January we issued a refusal notice to Hazrem Environmental Limited for an application for an environmental permit after finding evidence that granting the permit would lead to air pollution levels that would be too high.
“Hazrem chose to appeal this decision and included extra technical information that wasn’t previously included in their application.
“Based on a new assessment of the evidence provided by Hazrem, and following further advice from the local health board, we believe that the air emissions are within acceptable limits and will not be contesting their appeal.”
The decision over the appeal – and the granting of an application permit – now lies with the Planning Inspectorate, a spokesman for NRW confirmed.
Islwyn AM, Rhianon Passmore, has called for an urgent independent evaluation of Hazrem’s newly submitted information.
Ms Passmore, who has been vocal in her opposition and last year joined campaigners from The Lower Sirhowy Valley Residents Group in objecting to the proposed plant, expressed her dismay over NRW’s decision not to contest Hazrem’s appeal.
She said: “In January, NRW’s operations manager, Jon Goldsworthy, said: ‘We were not satisfied that the company’s detailed plans demonstrate that it can operate without harming people.’
“What confidence can the communities of Cwmfellinfach, Ynysddu and Watsville have when a permit is refused on health grounds after detailed plans were submitted, only for the failed applicant to try again with new data? All this whilst the regulator, Natural Resources Wales, have no capacity to verify the information but must simply go on trust.
“Members of the Lower Sirhowy Valley Residents Group have opposed plans since the plant was granted planning permission by Caerphilly County Borough Council in December 2015.
“What disregard for these communities that a petition of over a thousand signatures and over seven hundred letters of objection are to be dismissed without any guarantee that the data justifying the removal of health concerns is accurate? If it is accurate why was different data produced during the first failed attempt to obtain a permit?
“For sake of the health and wellbeing of these valley communities, let an urgent independent evaluation of the data be undertaken.
“I will continue to fight to stop this dangerous risk to the air quality which fails my constituents. They deserve better than the meek capitulation of Natural Resources Wales in the face of a large commercial organisation.”
Hazrem Environmental Ltd has been approached for comment.
For more information on the appeal, contact the Planning Inspectorate at email@example.com quoting the reference number 3172985.
This article has been updated to make it clear that Natural Resources Wales is not contesting the appeal.