Falkirk Council: Polmont Community Council unhappy over go-ahead for hazardous waste facility

A new facility to dispose of hazardous waste will be built in Polmont – but some local residents are unhappy at what they say has been a lack of consultation on the plans.

By Kirsty Paterson, Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 7th April 2022, 6:06 pm
Updated Monday, 11th April 2022, 5:11 pm

The new plant will replace a hazardous waste cell that is already in place on Avondale Environmental’s site.

It will be the only such facility in Scotland, with an expected lifespan of ten years.

Members of Polmont Community Council are angry that the decision was not made by members of Falkirk Council’s planning committee, but approved by a planning officer working on the case. But when they asked for the decision to be “called in” – which means it would be decided at a planning committee meeting by councillors – they were told they were three weeks too late and had missed the deadline.

An aerial view of the proposed site

The chairperson of the community council, Michael Stuart, admits that members were aware of the application when it was first submitted but they did not feel they had the expertise to object to such a complex, technical proposal. However, they believe that such a major decision should never have been taken without going in front of the planning committee.

Mr Stuart said: “Our issue is that it is now minded for approval by one officer – we feel it should go to the whole planning committee or the full council and they can be held accountable.

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“If at the end of the day we are assured that all of the issues have been looked at and thoroughly investigated, we would accept that. But to have one planning officer decide it is completely undemocratic.”

The community council has now written to all local councillors and MSP’s asking whether the decision can be looked at again. In a social media post, they urge others to do the same. They would also like to hear the reasons given for “minded approval” before any recommendation is put forward.

The online application is available to the public – but with 102 technical documents to look at, the community councillors say they need more time to fully investigate the contents.

There was some consultation on the event, although due to the coronavirus pandemic, the usual pre-planning application exhibition could not be held. However, an online event ran from February 22 until March 12, 2021.

Avondale says that this was advertised to neighbouring properties, local community councils and in The Falkirk Herald and Linlithgow Gazette newspapers. The online event, it reports, attracted 303 visits, from 278 unique visitors.

Three site visits were also held: two with the owner of Avondale House and one with the owner of The Bungalow.

During the consultation period, a total of seven comments were received: three through the consultation website, one by telephone, one by letter and two from a landowner during a site visit. The objections related to potential odours and the visual impact of the facility, traffic and noise it might generate and the risk of flooding.

At the moment, while the officer’s recommendation is ‘minded to grant’, full approval has not yet been given as there are legal conditions – known as a Section 75 agreement – still to be reached.

This agreement will include: an update of the restoration plan; provision for progressive site restoration; provision for periodic review of the quantum of the financial guarantee and restoration proposals; provision for submission of an annual report on the progress of operation and restoration; and a date for completion of all landfill operations and extend the period by which the planning authority can call in the monies if required to complete restoration.

The ‘minded to grant’ decision was brought to the community council’s attention by the owner of a neighbouring property, Avondale House, last week, when he attended a meeting.

David Robertson, who wants to develop Avondale House and has his own planning application to convert the stables into four homes, is unhappy at how close the cell will be to the listed building.

A Falkirk Council spokesperson said: “Delegated decisions on planning applications are made by officers on a regular basis in accordance with and following the processes detailed in the Council’s Scheme of Delegation to Committees.

“The decision is subject to a separate Section 75A application which will be determined by the Planning Committee at a later date.”