On Dec 16th and 17th Veolia’s legal challenge to the Secretary of State regarding his decision against giving planning permission for an incinerator at New Barnfield was heard in the High Court. The Judge, Mr Justice Holgate, reserved his judgement until the New Year.
Barrister Zoe Leventhal, for the Secretary of State, defended the Secretary of State’s decision, as did Barrister Wayne Beglan, who represented Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council. Observers from New Barnfield Action Fund and from Welwyn Hatfield Friends of the Earth and Herts Without Waste were in the public gallery.
Veolia’s legal challenge was presented by Barrister Rhodri Price-Lewis. Originally Veolia submitted 6 grounds of challenge, but one was immediately withdrawn. A recent judgement of the Appeal Court had already made that ground invalid.
During the hearing a second ground, that of inconsistency in decision-making, was not pressed.
Of the other grounds, Veolia put most emphasis on their argument that the Sec of State had not taken into account as part of very special circumstances for building an incinerator the fact that the Inspector of the Herts Waste Sites Allocations Plan had endorsed New Barnfield as an allocated waste site. The Waste Sites Allocation Plan was adopted by Herts County Council very soon after the Secretary of State’s decision. The Barristers opposing Veolia’s challenge showed that the Secretary of State did give the proposed allocation of New Barnfield in the Waste Sites Allocation Plan significant attention, and that he referred to it in his decision letter. They pointed out that the allocation of New Barnfield as a waste site has many limitations on what could be built there, particularly regarding the size and visual impact of any waste facility.
Campaigners remain optimistic that Veolia’s challenge will not be successful.
Even if Veolia’s challenge was to succeed, this would not mean that Veolia’s proposed incinerator could go ahead. The decision on Veolia’s Planning Application would then be referred back to the Secretary of State to reconsider, and he could again reject it. A number of factors since the Public Inquiry have strengthened the case against Veolia’s proposed incinerator. These factors include the Government’s withdrawal of PFI credits to finance it because of lack of need for more incinerator facilities.