IN a debate on the Lea Valley Greenhouse Glass Industry, lead by Charles Walker MP, Robert Halfon questioned why local residents objections to a waste incinerator proposal have been ignored by Hertfordshire County Council and urged for an open and transparent consultation. Robert also asked the Minister to investigate why licences were given to the waste disposal business responsible for the woodpile in Nazeing.
The full text from the debate can be found in Hansard at: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2017-07-18/debates/C88CE1E8-0842-4F0C-AA4F-524E394DBCE6/LeaValleyGreenhouseGlassIndustry#contribution-8CADDBED-A3DD-4411-B7A3-75E0F9E8D1DE
Robert’s contributions can be seen below and attached in video format:
Lee Valley Glasshouses
Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con)
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate, among others, and on the remarkable work he has done on this issue. Is he aware that many people in Roydon and Dobbs Weir in my constituency of Harlow have expressed numerous objections against this waste installation that we are all threatened with, yet all their objections seem to have been ignored?
My right hon. Friend makes a number of excellent points. This application is hugely contentious. It is on the edge of Hertfordshire. I do not want it in my backyard, and up until 2015 Veolia did not want it in my backyard. However, what Hertfordshire County Council, the sponsor of the facility, is actually proposing is that all the smoke ends up in Harlow’s backyard and Epping Forest’s backyard, so it is your constituents, Madam Deputy Speaker, and the constituents of my right hon. Friend the Member for Harlow who are downwind and will get the fallout.
The critical point is that we have an industry that is turning over half a billion pounds a year and producing huge amounts of fresh produce that graces the restaurants and cafeterias of the House of Commons and is to be found in the homes of millions of people up and down this country, and the producers of that food get very nervous when half of the 350 acres of glass might fall within a 5-mile radius of a 350,000-tonne incinerator. Their concerns need to be heard.
I want to pick up a different issue, although it is directly relevant to the Lea valley greenhouses, to my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker) and to you, my wonderful constituency neighbour, Madam Deputy Speaker. We have a woodpile in Nazeing—which is part of both the Harlow and the Epping Forest constituencies—which has burned down four times in the past four years, causing massive damage to one greenhouse glass enterprise as well as local residents. Many residents feel that not enough has been done, and we cannot understand why new licences are given to new companies to “run” the woodpile site. It causes enormous damage and expense—it burned down again only recently. I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to look into the matter because it has a significant effect on the Lea valley glasshouse industry.
I am not familiar with the issue that my hon. Friend raises, but if there are concerns about the licensing of the woodpile operation he mentions I will ask officials to look at them.
Mr Charles Walker
My hon. Friend makes a very important point. He said that the application will be considered on its merits. As it currently stands, it will be considered by Hertfordshire County Council, which is both the owner of the contract and the determiner of the contract. It is impossible for anyone in my constituency, and I believe in the constituencies of Epping Forest and Harlow, to imagine that the application will be considered on its merits, given that Hertfordshire County Council, if it does not grant it, will have to pay a £1.2 million failure fee to Veolia. That is the real concern, which is why I am hoping that the Minister will help the Lea valley growers and the NFU to make representations to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government for a proper independent inquiry by a planning inspector.
I understand the point that my hon. Friend makes, but he will be aware that I am not an expert on planning law and planning policy and that any such decision would be a matter for the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
On that point, will my hon. Friend ensure that the consultation is open and transparent and that everyone can see exactly what is being said?
Yes, the consultation that the Environment Agency will conduct on the environmental permitting regulations will be an open process. As I said, it intends to open the drop-in session to members of the public. I encourage anyone with concerns about this application, of which, according to my hon. Friends and the representations they have made, there are many in their constituencies, to contribute to the consultation that the Environment Agency is putting together. I understand that the consultation is open and that that drop-in session will take place shortly.
I recognise the points that my hon. Friends have made on this contentious issue and I will ensure that Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government sees a transcript of the debate. I am sure that Members will continue to make representations to him. It is ultimately for the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to make any decisions along the lines that my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne seeks.
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