CIVIC chiefs could be facing another costly legal battle after a landfill site extension bid was thrown out.
Operators Alab Environmental Services had applied to extend the height of Seaton Meadows landfill site, in Hartlepool, and revise its restoration plan.
But members of Hartlepool Borough Council’s planning committee rejected the plans by eight votes to two after a 90-minute meeting at the Civic Centre.
Now, Alab’s owners have confirmed they will appeal the decision - and warned it could leave the taxpayer footing a hefty legal fight.
Andrew Jacques, Managing Director of Able UK Limited, the parent company of ALAB, said: “Our frustration and disappointment cannot be understated especially as the planning committee received a very clear and unequivocal recommendation from their professional officers that the application should be approved.
“The decision flies in the face of the facts and given that we will, without question, be appealing the decision, the council taxpayer again risks facing a hefty legal bill in seeking to defend the indefensible.”
“Of course we have been here before when a previous planning decision by the same Committee was overturned. In January 2010 the Courts compelled the Council to pay some £470,000 towards Able’s costs – on top of the costs that the Council had wasted in defending the appeal - following on from another flawed decision over the so-called ‘Ghost Ships’ issue.”
Alab applied to the council after the height of the waste exceeded the limits allowed under current permission after tackling fires at the site in Brenda Road five years ago.
In order to tackle the blazes, burning waste was removed from the seat of the fire and spread on the top of an adjacent waste area, where active tipping had been completed, and it was treated to stop it burning.
Committee members heard the operators feared if they have to reduce the height it could risk re-igniting the fires by exposing the waste below to oxygen, so applied to increase the height.
But objectors, including Seaton Carew residents, say the landfill is already too high and should not be allowed.
Alab applied to extend the height of the post settlement by 24ft from the existing permission of 54ft to 78ft.
But the rejection means the over-tipping waste will have to be removed and put elsewhere on the landfill site.
It is not without its dangers though and the Environment Agency and the council’s public protection have warned reducing the current height could risk re-igniting the fires.
There are also concerns about re-opening a landfill in terms of smell and vermin, and there is also overtipped asbestos waste needing to be removed elsewhere.
Amanda Stobbs, representing Alab Environmental Services, told the committee the height would not extend beyond what it is now and that the application would not increase the lifespan of the landfill.
Chris Pipe, planning services manager, said: “If it is refused there could be an appeal and there is the potential for a public inquiry.”
She added if it went down that route a final decision would not be made for at least 12 months due to the lengthy process.
Officers had recommended the application be accepted but the plans, which had 35 letters of objection, were rejected due to concerns about the need and the long-term visual impact it would have.
The landfill is still active until 2027, regardless of yesterday’s decision. The site will then be landscaped with grassland, wild flowers, trees and shrubs.
Labour councillor Marjorie James said: “Regardless of the decision, the landfill will have to be landscaped eventually and that does not change.”