Councillors do not support plans for former Craigend Brickworks

Councillors have overwhelmingly said no to a controversial planning application for the former Craigend brickworks near Standburn.

Tuesday, 4th February 2020, 10:47 am
The former Craigend Brickworks near Standburn. Pic: Michael Gillen.

That opinion, however, will have little bearing on what happens next as the application has already been passed on to the Scottish Government’s reporter to make the final decision.

But the council does have to advise the reporter what its decision would have been – and at a meeting of the council’s planning committee, members from all political parties said they would not be minded to grant approval.

The hugely controversial application has been firmly opposed by local community councils – with Maddiston, Avonbridge and Standburn, Shieldhill and California and Reddingmuirhead and Wallacestone community councils all objecting – while hundreds of individual objections were also received.

Anglo Scottish Biosolids Ltd (ASBL)  – also known as James McCaig farms – already has permission to process waste on the former brickworks site at Boxton Road, but only  ‘inert construction waste materials’, such as builders’ rubble.

The company says that’s no use for its business and the site has lain unused for five years – leading to claims they have ‘abandoned’ the site.

In May, ASBL asked Falkirk Council to extend the types of waste they are allowed to process, which they say would allow a derelict site to be regenerated.

But many in the community believe the planning application could open the doors to allow the firm to process contaminated waste, possibly even sewage sludge.

The company has strongly denied that would be the case and says it is heavily regulated by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

The council’s planners recommended the application be accepted, saying the real question here was controlling the type of waste that would be processed – and that was a matter for SEPA.

But councillors said they were unimpressed with SEPA’s track record locally and had no faith that the environment watchdog had any ability to control what was processed on the site.

Councillor Gordon Hughes, who represents the area, said he was firmly opposed to amending the permission and proposed a motion saying so.

Mr Hughes said he was very concerned at the suggestion the site might not need an Environmental Impact Assessment and he believes that “with the possiblity of sewage sludge, digestates and bioremediators being on site, even temporarily, an EIA is vital”.

He said: “I am not interested in getting into a bunfight with SEPA, I’m simply saying this matter should be controlled by ourselves.”

Labour’s Joan Coombes said SEPA’s track record locally at sites such as West Carron – where a landfill site caused huge problems for its neighbours – gave her no confidence in the organisation to police waste disposal effectively.

SNP councillor Laura Murtagh agreed, saying there were other examples she could give of it failing residents.

A spokesman for SEPA said: “SEPA works every day to protect and enhance Scotland’s environment.

“Any activities carried out by Anglo Scottish Biosolids Limited at the Craigend Brickworks site which fall within SEPA’s regulatory remit must have an appropriate authorisation in place.

“The appropriate licensing regime will be determined by our officers based on the materials they wish to bring on site and/or the activities they intend to carry out.

“No applications have been received to date and any received would be considered as per the correct statutory framework.

“SEPA will clearly set out the conditions that must be met to ensure that human health and the environment remain protected from any activities.

“If a permit is granted SEPA will carry out inspections of the site and can take action if conditions are not adhered to.

“We are clear that compliance with our authorisations is non-negotiable and, where appropriate, we will take action to bring operators back in to compliance.”

A reporter appointed by the Scottish Government has already visited the site and will announce her decision in due course.