Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Councillors witness yet another quarry breach

This morning, three Wrexham councillors - George James, Dave Bithell and Paul Pemberton - visited the protest at Hafod Quarry, only to witness one of the wagons arriving from the Johnstown direction (see pic) where it apparently caused traffic mayhem as it passed the school. The wagons should always approach the site from the by-pass, not via the village.

Please can someone elaborate on the story as I'm reporting from afar just now (East London to be exact).

Friday, October 27, 2006

Landfill payment halts Assembly budget

Labour's Assembly budget plans were halted on Wednesday as Plaid Cymru, the Tories, the Liberal Democrats and independent members united behind a list of additions to the budget.

Among the additions are cash for the Wrexham to London rail link and - more relevantly for us - a commitment to fund any compensation claim arising from landfill issues from central rather than local government. This is a direct result of pressure over Hafod quarry, where irresponsible politicians at local and national level have bandied about the sum of £10m as a possible compensation claim by Murkey Waste.

The budget has now had to go back for further talks and it's likely the opposition parties - who outnumber Labour by 30-29 - will be able to force through the amendment.

If so, it will guarantee that Wrexham Council will not have to pay out any money in the unlikely event that a compensation case would be made by the tippers.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Councillors to investigate site

Councillors Dave Bithell and Mark Pritchard are to investigate the Hafod site after complaints from local residents. They demanded access to the site from Murky Waste Holdings to check up on the landfilling amid concerns that the company is not sticking to planning guidelines.
If you have issues you want them to raise with MWH, please get in touch here

Service at Hafod

Vicar of Ruabon, Mike Harrison, conducting a service yesterday
opposite the Quarry gates

HEG1 sent this report of yesterday's service at the Quarry:

On Monday 23rd October at approx. 8am, Rev. Mike Harrison, the Vicar of Ruabon, gave a service opposite the gates of the Hafod Landfill site. It was a moving service and pleasing to see how the Reverend had taken the time to prepare some literature especially for the service. The were some very relevant passages quoted from the Bible as well as a special prayer for all the local residents and those affected by this atrocity on our doorsteps.

In attendance were Councillors David Bithell and Paul Pemberton (who is on the planning committee), as well as Mark Isherwood AM. Local MP Martyn Jones and AM Karen Sinclair were not there. The police left the scene before the service commenced. It was good to see the Evening Leader there to take photographs. Reading the Evening Leader later that day, it struck me as apt that the Hewdens cleaning truck was in the background while all of this was going on.

This just goes to show that even though it appears that MANY (not all) of the officials we elected are against us, and that the local and national authorities care little for us and the environment, we are still united and we're not going anywhere. No matter how much others may pray we do.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Gate picket stepped up

Defiant protesters have stepped up their campaign against the landfill dumping at Hafod. A meeting of more than 60 local people agreed to organise all-day pickets of the site. The site is open from 7am-6pm during the week and until 1pm on Saturdays.

The campaigners already have a long list of breaches of the site licence and need extra people to help with this collection of information.

Please get along when you can and help fill the rota whenever possible.

What if Carwyn says "carry on dumping"?

We're in limbo at the moment, it seems, as we await Carwyn Jones's decision to revoke or not. Individuals, groups and politicians are putting pressure on him, so we'll see which way he jumps.

This gives us a chance to start discussing the next step. Of course if Carwyn decides to revoke or discontinue, then the onus passes on to the Assembly and Wrexham Council to stop Murkey Waste from dumping immediately.

But what if he decides to permit dumping?

To quote the Proclaimers - "What do you do when democracy fails you?"

You consider your options and take action.

Some people may lose heart and give up at this point. It's been a long fight for some protesters, who kept the fight going when all looked lost. But there are also a lot of people, some not able to attend the meetings and pickets for various reasons, who want to fight on and win this campaign.

Action can mean many things: You can take action to replace the politicians who failed you but in the short term we also have to take action to ensure that Mersey Waste is not allowed to continue dumping.

So far our focus has been on the politicians in the Guildhall and Assembly, who had it within their powers to act on our behalf. If they fail, our focus should switch to the people who make decisions at Murkey Waste.

Peaceful and imaginative protests should be the way in which we fight the vested interests who benefit from the tipping - the Merseyside councils and Murky Waste Holdings.

There are other avenues of protest of course. Jill Evans MEP successfully petitioned the European Parliament to close the Nantygwyddon tip in the Rhondda because of the affect it had on local people's health. But this could take months if not years and we must fight in the here and now.

What do you think?

Send a comment and let's discuss the way forward.

Playing Politics

Granada TV's programme about Hafod Quarry was screened tonight. A sizeable chunk of the report was given to an interview with Martyn Jones outside the Houses of Parliament, where he said that Carwyn Jones had the power to issue a discontinuance order but... wait for it... there was a problem because Mersey Waste could then sue Wrexham County Borough Council and it would cost the council tax payers a lot of money blah blah blah. He went on to say that he "would like" Mersey Waste to, in effect, see the error of its ways and stop dumping at Hafod. Likely, eh?

Still time to write to Carwyn to urge him to stop the landfill:

Carwyn Jones
Minister for Environment, Planning & Countryside
National Assembly for Wales
Cardiff Bay
CF99 1NA


Here's one letter sent by Janet Williams:

Dear Mr Jones,

I am writing with regard to the landfill site operated by Mersy Waste Holdings at Hafod Quarry in the county of Wrexham. I have had an interest in the site for some years now, and would urge you to issue a notice of discontinuation for the current use of the land.
The original application should have been no longer valid, since significant progress in waste management has occured since the time of determination by a planning inquiry. In addition there are now significant material considerations that have developed in the past ten years, including the designation of part of the site as SAC, changes in demography and transport, introduction of EIA and HIA and advances in understanding of the health impacts of landfill.
I attach evidence which was submitted to a hearing into the operations proposed at the site in July 2004, for your information and interest, and to assist your deliberations.
I would be willing to attend any meeting at the Assembly to give evidence should that be necessary.
I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.

Please send Carwyn any additional information you have to assist him in his deliberations. I'm sure that many promises were made about how the site would operate, and that many of these have already been broken. So it would be worth writing to tell Carwyn how the site affects you, after just a few weeks. These accounts alone should make it abundantly clear that it was a serious mistake on the part of the Environment Agency and the council to allow landfill to go ahead at Hafod.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Community Policing and Peaceful Protest

Inspector Paul Firth attended the meeting of Hafod Action Group tonight, answered questions and explained how he sees things.

In spite of several brave attempts by members of the group to explain the community's concern over traffic issues and road safety, Paul continued to make comments demonstrating that he totally misunderstands people's motivation for reporting traffic offences.

Everyone who spoke talked of the risks to other road users caused by these infringements and their general concern that no-one should be killed or injured on the road as a result of traffic offences linked with the quarry. Paul Firth appeared not to be listening:

"Ladies and gents, reporting all these traffic infringements won't get the quarry closed," he countered. Several people tried to explain that traffic issues around the quarry are their concern because they live in the local community and don't want their local roads to become death traps, but that wasn't going to change Paul's view of how things are:

"It feels like we [the police] are being put into a position where we are the only ones who are going to put an end to tipping." This, in spite of the fact that he had sat through the meeting on Saturday with Karen and Martyn listening to a whole range of concerns, including many which were not police matters. He continued with a warning:

"You should be aware that we haven't been able to police drugs issues and burglaries in the area because the police are down there [at the quarry]."
Some members challenged Paul to justify over-policing incidents, such as the three police officers who had been sent to police six peaceful protesters, and who stayed at the site gate for far longer than necessary to establish they weren't needed. People were too polite to raise the issue of the 14 police officers sent to police the protest on Monday. Paul now denies saying that he only has 4 officers to police 250 square miles in his patch. He did though. We heard him.

One of the many pieces of foam littering the roadway from the quarry right down onto the by-pass and causing drivers to swerve dangerously to avoid what look for all the world like large pieces of rock (this one was about 4" high).

Anyway, Paul has been into Hafod Quarry today to slap the wrists of Murkey Waste bosses, to tell them to leave the camera at the gate on 24/7 (although we all know that the most useful footage on CCTV has a habit of mysteriously disappearing when it's most needed) and to warn them that they've got to clean up their act or they'll "get it in the neck". He asked us to quote this phrase.

In order to deal with traffic infringements by wagon drivers and the sweeping vehicle, the police need EVIDENCE. Dates, times, number plates, witnesses, photos, video footage. Please report all future infringements to the police with as much accompanying evidence as possible.

When is a peaceful protest not a peaceful protest? Paul Firth is of the view that anything which stops Mersey Waste carrying out its lawful [even though we know it's not] business for even a few minutes is not peaceful protest. He needs to go and look at the long and illustrious history of civil disobedience by pacifists in this country and worldwide. In the face of grave injustices perpetrated or condoned by the state, when the systems of the state fail to rectify such injustices, good citizens have frequently taken action. Direct action is not incompatible with peaceful protest.

Carwyn speaks

In response to an enquiry by Janet Ryder AM about discontinuance, Carwyn Jones has sent the following reply [my bold]:

Your constituent is right in saying that I could not make a Discontinuance Order without first consulting the local planning authority. Were I to propose to make an Order I would also have to serve notice on the local planning authority and offer them the opportunity of a Public Inquiry. However I intend firstly to make an assessment of whether the making of a Discontinuance Order may be appropriate in this case taking account of our policy set out in Planning Policy Wales. That is the point at which I am at and I will announce my conclusion later this month.

Yours sincerely

CF Jones

There's a link to the Planning policy here but it doesn't seem to be working at the moment. Also, although this is a government web site, it appears to be carrying an advertisement for a private company.

So, if that doesn't work, try this link instead. This policy is dated 2002. If that's the most recent one, then it will have been updated with various circulars and guidance. Haven't time to go hunting for more info now, but if you find any, please post under "comments" below.

Opposition parties reject Assembly budget

The opposition parties in the Assembly have rejected Labour's draft budget because they want to include - among a shopping list of demands - help for councils "to overcome the difficulties they face over landfill sites".

The delicate balance of power in the Assembly means that Labour has to get opposition support for its budgets. Out of 60 AMs, Labour only has 29 with the opposition consisting of Plaid Cymru (12), Tories (11), Lib Dems (6), John Marek (1) and Trish Law (1).

Negotiations will continue until "a fair deal" is reached. The thinking behind this is to negate the argument that revocation will put an unfair cost on Wrexham Council in terms of compensation, an argument we would reject but one that has been used by a variety of politicians.

So the ball is firmly back in Carwyn's court...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Murkeyside's recycling is, er, rubbish

Taken from the Liverpool edition of the Daily Post
Green rage at recycling fiasco
Oct 17 2006

By Liam Murphy, Daily Post Staff

THOUSANDS of tonnes of waste, painstakingly separated out by householders who thought it would be recycled as compost, is being dumped in landfill sites.

Wirral Council and Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority have admitted that the rubbish is going to landfill because it cannot be used as compost until it is confirmed as safe to use.

They warned last night that the situation may not change for up to a year.

The waste is part of the food and garden waste recycling scheme which so far includes 18,500 homes in West Kirby, Heswall, Oxton, Prenton and Bebington.

Other homes which have received their garden bins in a second distribution wave have not been given a caddy for their food waste, and are being instructed not to add food waste. Because of this their garden waste can be recycled.

Patrick Cleary of Wirral's Green Party said it showed that recycling in Merseyside and Wirral was "a shambles".

He said: "The recycling in Wirral has been abysmal and I'm very disappointed by this. It has been done successfully in other parts of the country.

"There are so many simple things that could have been done long ago. It would be so simple to give people a way to recycle metal and glass. I had that when I lived down south 10 years ago, and they've had it on the Continent for decades."

He said food recycling was more complex and required a greater change in culture, but added: "It comes across as being totally disorganised and last minute, and is costing people money through landfill taxes which they pay in their council tax.

"People wanting to recycle will be gutted to hear about this. The whole thing is a shambles and a disgrace."

According to a report to be presented to Wirral's cabinet this week food and garden waste at the recycling centre at Bidston has not yet reached the standards required by the State Veterinary Service and cannot be sold as compost.

The report by director of technical services David Green said: "Currently the end product is being land-filled, so there is no recycling benefit to Wirral."

The report says this is "usual practice" for a new plant.

The authority says from April to July, 2,175 tonnes of food and garden waste was collected from 18,500 households. This is almost as much as the amount of garden waste (2,573 tonnes) collected from the remaining 75,000 households which just have the garden waste only sacks.

Carl Beer, Director of Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority, said they are now in the testing and assessment stage of the compost materials produced by the in-vessel composter at Bidston with the State Veterinary Service (SVS).

He said: "As part of guidelines that were brought in following the outbreak of foot and mouth disease, any food waste that is composted into materials for use on land must now be fully assessed by the SVS before it is certified for use.

"This assessment and approval process is standard and is happening across the UK on all food and combined green and food waste collections."

He said the tests could take "up to a year but sometimes longer" to ensure the compost is safe to use.

David Green, director of technical services for Wirral Council appealed to people not to be disheartened and to continue recycling.

"The mixed food and garden waste residents have given us to recycle is absolutely vital and highly valued and I would not want anyone to feel their efforts are being disregarded - this is just not the case.


Monday, October 16, 2006

North Wales Policing Priorities

more overkill policing

On Saturday, Inspector Paul Firth said he had 4 police officers to cover 250 square miles and that he would rather not use them to police the Hafod protest. Today, about 20 protesters peacefully blockaded the quarry for about 15 minutes. At least 8 police officers (oops! I've been corrected - there were 14) were sent to the scene in at least 4 police vehicles, including the one sponsored by Kronospan. When the police arrived, the protesters moved back to the other side of the road without even being asked.

Surely it is good sense to send a couple of officers out in the first instance to assess the situation before diverting large numbers of officers from other duties to police something which does not need that level of policing... isn't it? Or is the priority to keep Mersey Waste moving at all costs? Who are the police really working for - the people or for big business?

In the end, with nothing else to do, the police assumed a traffic management role, stopping vehicles (which should have the right of way) along Bangor Road to allow the waste wagons to leave the site. At one point this caused a large tailback up Bangor Road.

blockade oct16 a

Sunday, October 15, 2006

An audience with our elected representatives

Martyn and Karen as pictured on their list of surgery dates

Apologies for the length of this post, but it was a very long and arduous meeting.

Towards the end of our discussion with Inspector Firth (see below), Martyn Jones MP and Karen Sinclair AM joined us and we talked about their involvement in the campaign. Both Martyn and Karen were very indignant that people felt they hadn't been supportive of the anti-landfill campaign. They said that nothing could be further from the truth. They also said they were very hurt by the nasty and unfair things which had been written about them in this blog.

Karen explained that she didn't write anything on her web site about landfill at Hafod Quarry (between August 25th and October 13th) because she and/or her office staff were on holiday and people are entitled to their holidays. What she didn't explain was how so many other topics managed to appear on her web site during this time. Karen invited people to come to her office and read the landfill file. She said that scarcely a week/week and a half go by without her contacting the Environment Agency about Hafod. The protesters pointed out that they are on the phone to the EA every day. Some of their disappointment in Karen relates to her extravagant claims in a press release posted on her web site about how she will ensure that the MWH licence is followed to the letter. It was suggested that Karen should not make promises she can't keep.

There appears to have been some breakdown in communication, as Karen says she is regularly on the phone to some of the campaigners, but there is clearly a need to get this information disseminated more widely, so people understand what Karen is doing on their behalf. Karen asked people to let her know of any infringements in future, and she will follow all of them up. Karen can be contacted at karen.sinclair@wales.gov.uk or by phone on 02920 898724. Karen was shown the film of the potato starch incident and said she would contact the EA about this incident.

Karen was asked why it was Janet Ryder and not her who tabled the statement of opinion at the Assembly. Karen said "That's nonsense! Statements of opinion are just bits of paper."

Someone mentioned the quarry issue as a potential vote-loser for Karen and Martyn. Karen said that anyone was welcome to stand against her and try to do a better job. "To be honest, Karen," someone said, "if there was an election tomorrow, they could stand a pig against you, and the pig would win." There was also condemnation by the protesters of the councillors who voted against revocation, and a pledge to campaign on the landfill issue coming up to the next elections, making sure everyone is informed about how their councillor voted.

Martyn felt aggrieved that he had been accused of not attending the demonstrations at the quarry, when he had been there one morning and stood with the protesters. Some of the protesters said they hadn't seen him there. Martyn said that he was sorry that he'd gone on a day when they weren't there. Someone asked what date it was but Martyn didn't have that information. It was suggested that he could find this out and let the group know, but he took exception to this idea. However, to move things along, a printed invitation to visit the quarry was issued by the group to both Karen and Martyn. Martyn said he would be able to attend in a couple of weeks from now as he has other commitments before then. I'm sorry but I can't remember when Karen said she'd go along.

Martyn got himself embroiled in a nasty exchange with one campaigner, whose attitude he said he found "very annoying", a comment she took exception to. He went on: "I'm doing everything I can. The attitude that I'm doing nothing annoys me. I've just said that I'll send copies of all the letters I've written." (Later in the meeting he did apologise for this outburst). Martyn was asked what he had done in Parliament. He said that he did a lot in 1991, and at some time got himself into trouble with the Transport and General Workers Union for opposing landfill. He recently met the Environment Minister. When pressed for more information about what he'd been doing on the quarry issue, Martyn asked what else people wanted him to do. Someone felt that he should have been taking every opportunity to promote the anti-landfill cause and that he should be offering ideas rather than asking the protesters for a lead on what he should be doing.

There was a discussion about the likelihood of Carwyn Jones revoking the permission. Karen said Carwyn has to decide if revocation is the right thing to do, according to the regulations. There was some feeling amongst the campaigners that revocation could be the only right course of action, and that it would depend on Carwyn being brave enough to make the decision to revoke. Karen and Martyn were asked whether they would resign from the Labour Party if Carwyn didn't stop the landfill. They were very scathing of this suggestion, calling it "childish" (Karen) and "pathetic" (Martyn).

Karen was asked if she would help vote the Assembly budget down if this could make sure Carwyn revokes the permission and places money in a contingency fund in case of a successful claim by MWH (which the campaigners would strongly oppose for reasons outlined elsewhere). Karen said "if this is still going on after the budget has been set, then I will still be saying that the Welsh Assembly Government should do everything in its power to ameliorate the financial burden - that's what I said in my amendment to Janet Ryder's statement of opinion. In law, Carwyn is right - the responsibility is on the local authority - but I say that we have a moral responsibility. However, voting a budget down is a different thing. The budget includes money for hospitals, education etc. I won't vote against my Party's budget." Karen went on to describe John Marek's move as "pop politics".

Karen was asked if she would support the protesters taking direct action at the quarry if Carwyn doesn't stop the landfill. She said that she would never support direct action. Karen was asked what action she would recommend the protesters take to protect their health and the health of their children if Carwyn doesn't stop the landfill, given that any action via Europe could take years, during which time everyone will be exposed to nuisance and detrimental effects on their health, and some babies likely to be born with deformities such as cleft palates. Karen skirted round the issue and didn't answer the question. Later she was asked again - what action would you recommend? She ummed and aahed and offered the non-answer: "go to Europe, I suppose."

At the point where the discussion seemed to be going round in circles, Inspector Firth helpfully intervened and suggested that the campaigners could request some definite actions from Martyn and Karen.

It was suggested that Karen and Martyn need to let people know about their actions in relation to the quarry. They will consider producing a regular newsletter with updates. It was agreed that their contact details should be publicised - these are being sent round the Hafod group, Karen's details are above, and Martyn can be contacted at jonesm@parliament.uk and tel: 0207 219 3417, fax: 0207 219 6090. Karen stressed, however, that they did not want any hate mail.

Karen was asked to ask Carwyn to make an unannounced visit to the quarry. Karen said he had already promised that neither protesters nor MWH would have warning. Karen was asked to suggest that Carwyn should attend when landfill operations are likely to be in full swing, and that he should be guided around the outside of the quarry, so he can grasp the scale, and around Johnstown, so he can see how close the houses are to the site.

There may have been more action points but I'm afraid I can't remember what these were - I was losing concentration after two hours. Feel free to put your additions, corrections and opinions under "comments" below.

Protesters meet with Police

Yesterday, a number of the landfill protesters met with Inspector Paul Firth, who is responsible for policing at the Quarry. This was part of a longer meeting which took place at Martyn Jones' constituency office in Johnstown; the first part of the meeting was with Insp. Firth, the second part was with Martyn Jones MP and Karen Sinclair AM (report to follow).

The only picture I could find of Inspector Paul Firth is copyright, but you can view it here. This web site includes an email link if you need to contact Inspector Firth.

The meeting kicked off with a discussion between Inspector Paul Firth and the campaigners. During a sometimes heated exchange, people expressed their concerns about the policing at Hafod, with most of the issues being about the attitude of officers policing the protest, and instances where people felt officers had overstepped the mark, been disrespectful, aggressive or intimidating etc. One or two incidents have resulted in complaints being made. The discussion didn't get off to a good start, with Inspector Firth often interrupting people who were trying to put their views across, but during the course of the meeting, people did get to say what they thought and the atmosphere gradually calmed down. The Inspector explained how policing at the site at the beginning of the protests was carried out by officers on overtime from across North Wales, whereas now only local officers were involved. He felt that this had improved police/protester relations, but agreed to address the ongoing concerns raised by the protesters, which included some issues about the attitude of certain officers, the need for officers to be seen to be even-handed and the need to follow up traffic offences committed by wagon drivers.

There was some discussion about the difference between what Inspector Firth called peaceful protest and other sorts. Some of the complaints about policing have arisen when protesters have not done exactly what the police have told them to do, at which point officers sometimes become aggressive and angry very quickly. Some protesters expressed very strong feelings, including one who said: "I never understood why people called the police 'pigs' until this protest began, but after the way I've been treated, I can see why." Obviously, it is not good for the police or for local residents if public confidence in the police force is destroyed, and Inspector Firth expressed his wish to ensure that this did not happen. It was suggested that officers could look at the example of Faslane in Scotland, where regular protests take place against the Trident submarine base, including direct action such as blockading, but where the police have nevertheless managed to maintain a good relationship with protesters by behaving (including carrying out arrests) in a calm and respectful manner, and generally ensuring that the wellbeing of the protesters is given due attention. The Hafod campaigners stressed that they did not have an issue with the police per se - the protest is about landfill - but they do expect to be treated properly.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Letters from our politicians - 2 (Bruce Roberts)

Bruce Roberts, approved Assembly candidate for Wrexham Liberal Democrats, wrote to the Leader this week with a really feeble attempt to excuse councillors who voted against revocation of the 1995 planning permission. He rambles on a bit, but this is the important part:

Wrexham councillors voted not to revoke the planning permission because they had no choice. If they had voted against the advice of the officers (who were following national "guidelines") then they would have left Council Tax payers in Wrexham open to a compensation claim of up to £10m.

Successive governments of whatever party have restricted the power of local government to such an extent that local councils do not have the power to carry out the bidding of their constituents. The power of local government is being constrained more and more by guidelines, funding controls and national legislation...

...Until local democracy is strengthened to allow our locally elected representatives the power to make real decisions on our behalf these sorts of issues will continually crop up and the protests of local people will be fruitless.

Actually, Bruce, Wrexham councillors did have a choice - they had the choice to do the right thing and not to allow an obsolete planning permission to be used by MWH to landfill at Hafod. What they didn't have was moral courage and backbone. Every planning committee meeting I have ever been to has involved officers threatening that "if councillors choose to reject this, we may have to pay compensation". In this case, the advice was particularly misguided.

If the Lib. Dem/Independent Alliance which controls Wrexham council and whose members on the Planning Committee voted against revocation had bothered to do its homework, it would have discovered that MWH were well aware of the doubtful legality of the 1995 permission when they bought the site, and gave written assurance that they would not commence dumping until all planning matters had been resolved. Compensation (and who's decided on £10m, eh? Is it just a nice figure to scare council tax payers with?) should hardly be paid where a company goes ahead and starts dumping in full knowledge that their planning permission might not be allowed.

Aled Roberts is not a popular man in the Johnstown, Ruabon, Rhos and Ponciau areas. Nor are any of the members of his Alliance or other parties which voted against revocation. People won't forget decisions like this; they can't afford to because it will be them, their children and grandchildren who will be suffering the consequences for years to come.

Friday, October 13, 2006

First Hafod, then Penybont?

Our small part of Wales has, as we're all too aware, had more than its share of landfill. Ruabon, Newbridge, Johnstown...

While our priority is to halt the Hafod landfill, this is not a narrow-minded campaign. We want to reduce landfill, increase recycling and re-use and ensure all councils (whether Murkeyside or Wrexham) do more in this field.

So we were concerned to hear from our Newbridge mole that the Penybont landfill site is almost full and WRG, the company that runs the site for Wrexham council, is looking for a very substantial extension. It could be decades, we understand.

We all know what Howard Moysen, the local councillor in Cefn Mawr and Newbridge, thinks of landfill. He's all for it in Johnstown. We wonder whether he'll be so keen if it's in his back yard with the council elections only 18 months away.

Howard Moysen - one of the Dirty Dozen

Letters from our politicians - 1 (Karen Sinclair)

Karen Sinclair has been jumping to conclusions... I have it on good authority that Maurice Jones was not the author of a letter to the Evening Leader, written by one of the many other M Joneses who might share such views, in which Karen Sinclair was criticised. Anyway, that aside, this week our Karen has hit back.

In a reply to the Leader, Karen explains how she wrote letters about Hafod ages ago. She says: "It may come as a surprise to Mr Jones to learn that a great deal of hard work has been done by a number of individuals over a long period of time on this issue and not all of it gets to be made public." Karen has made jolly sure that her recent commitment to Hafod has been made public - signing the petition and suchlike.

As far as I am aware, most of the criticism of Karen relates to her lack of concrete involvement in the campaign since the Quarry opened for landfill and since her fellow Labour AM Carwyn Jones was asked to revoke. Hafod campaigners are particularly annoyed because of Karen's fine words about how she was going to support the people of Johnstown. In case anyone has forgotten, she said:

"Make no mistake, I will help ensure a very close eye is kept on them at all times and will work closely with the Environment Agency to make sure that they adhere in every respect to the conditions set out in the licence. The safety of residents is paramount and I will be taking every opportunity to ensure that this comes first and no breaches occur."

The people of Johnstown are wondering why they have been left to stand at the quarry gates every day to monitor the situation and to report repeated breaches to the Environment Agency, the council etc. It's best not to make promises you can't or won't keep, Karen. This is the sort of thing which goes against you at election time.

Look out for the next instalment in this series over the weekend; the Lib Dems have finally broken their silence...

Mass demo needed on Monday

On Monday (16th Oct) Granada TV are coming down to the landfill site. Pauline has requested that we get as many people there from 7am as we can - can you please spread the word!

This will be seen in Murkeyside, so let's make sure that Murky Waste and Liverpool councils are reminded of their responsibilities.

Public meeting in Johnstown

Can you also please let everyone know that there is a public meeting on Thursday 19th October at 7:30pm in Johnstown Scout Hut (usual location). Once again, we would like as many people there as we can so everyone can be updated on events of the past week.

Please also keep writing to Carwyn Jones:

Carwyn Jones AM
Minister for Environment, Planning and Countryside
Labour Assembly Government
National Assembly for Wales
Cardiff Bay
CF99 1NA

Also, when you are ringing the Environment Agency (0800 80 70 60) and Wxm Council's Planning Dept (01978 292018) can you make sure you register that you have complained with Elaine Crawford who is keeping a record of our complaints. Elaine can be contacted on (01978) 840819 or elainetinapip@aol.com

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Wrexham 588 Liverpool 300,000

This is a reply to an e-mail sent to the First Minister about Hafod... it turns out Wrexham exports 588 tonnes of waste to England while we're expected to take 300,000 in return.


Dear X

Thank you for your e-mail of 31 August to the First Minister regarding Mersey Waste Holdings landfilling waste from England at Hafod Quarry. I have been asked to reply.

Planning permission for Mersey Waste to landfill at Hafod Quarry pre-dates the National Assembly and was granted on appeal by the Secretary of State for Wales in 1995.

I can assure you that local authorities whose waste is handled by Mersey Waste will not avoid any controls on landfilling by sending it to a site in Wales, and Environment Agency Wales has to ensure that it will meet all the required standards to safeguard health and the environment.

To place this issue in context, Welsh local authorities also send waste to be landfilled in England and all of Wales' hazardous waste that needs to be disposed of in landfill is sent to England as well as significant amounts of waste from the industrial/commercial and construction/demolition sectors. According to information submitted by local authorities to the Environment Agency through WasteDataFlow, in 2005-06 Welsh local authorities exported 36,966 tonnes of municipal waste to be deposited into three different landfill site in England. Most of this waste arose in Monmouthshire, with the remaining 588 tonnes from Wrexham and 41 tonnes fromm Denbighshire.

Both the Welsh Assembly Government and Defra have plans in place for local authorities to reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfill and significant improvments have been made year on year.

The Welsh Assembly Government in its National Waste Strategy "Wise about Waste" seeks to promote sustainable waste management and to reduce the amount of waste, including municipal waste sent to landfill. Since 2000-01 local authority recycling and compostingi in Wales has increased from about 6% to nearly 20% in 2004-05, the last year for which data is available. (The way in which the data is collected has changed since 2000-01 but the 6% figure is reasonably comparable with the current way in which we collect the waste management data). Local authorities are expected to reach 25% recycling and composting by 2006-07 and 40% by 2009-10.

Yours sincerely

Cai Jones
Waste Policy Branch
Environment Policy and Protection Division

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A day out with our AMs in Cardiff

Thanks to everyone who came along to Cardiff today and all those people supporting this campaign who weren't able to be there. We left Johnstown at 7am in torrential rain, but everything (including most of our damp funereal clothes) had dried up by the time we arrived in Cardiff and by the afternoon the sun was shining.

Protesters had made a really imaginative array of banners and placards, including this one on a dustbin lid:

bin lid close up

and this one, suggesting an alternative landfill material (biodegradeable):

Dump Carwyn Jones!

and wonderful sets of posters like these showing exactly what landfill means to the people of Johnstown:

no landfill in johnstown

We even had our own grim reaper in attendance:

grim reaper

Several Assembly members came out to speak with us, although notably not the Minister who's going to be making the decision about revocation, Carwyn Jones. Carwyn did however deign to meet with a few of the protesters, who presented him with a 5,000 signature petition and 1,500 Evening Leader Coupons. Carwyn's going to pay a secret visit to the Quarry now, after previously refusing to do so, which is some progress. We sincerely hope that the quarry doesn't get any warning of this visit. When Jill Evans came along, landfill conveniently stopped for the duration of her visit.

John Marek, Wrexham AM, talked to the protesters about the possibility of the minority groups within the Assembly (who together constitute a majority), refusing to agree Labour's proposed budget unless Carwyn agrees to revocation. The minority parties were there to voice their support for this plan, although Eleanor Burnham didn't seem sure at first whether she would be supporting it or not. She said she was "thinking about it" but later returned to say that she would support.

Karen Sinclair, who arrived late and nearly missed all the fun, spent some time trying to explain to the protesters how she had been busy behind the scenes protecting their interests even though no-one had seen her at the Quarry. She's got a file "that thick" in her office to prove it if anyone cares to visit and take a look. Most of the Hafod campaigners took a dim view of this excuse, leading to some angry exchanges after Karen implied that the intricacies of the case were too much for the ordinary residents to appreciate. The ordinary residents insisted that the essence of the campaign was very simple, and someone suggested that Karen might be judged, not on having files "that thick" but on whether she succeeds in getting landfill stopped. Martyn Jones, very sensibly, stayed out of the argument and looked like he was wishing he'd stayed in Westminster.

my constituents - I mean my files - are this thick
My constituents - I mean my files - are THAT thick!

Janet Ryder AM, in answer to a question from a protester, said that if Carwyn failed to revoke the permission at Hafod, a vote of no confidence would be a possibility. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

As we were leaving, we laid a wreath at the front of the Assembly Building, mourning the loss of our health, clean air, amenity, property value, democracy and justice. It's up to Carwyn now to put these injustices right.

mourning the loss of

More photos from today can be found here.

The Monster Mash

This is the sort of thing that goes on at Hafod: reported by one of the regular protesters.

Tuesday 10th October 2006

This morning I witnessed a wagon commencing to tip a load of waste into Hafod landfill. The load included a pale powdery substance that threw up big clouds of dust. While continuing to watch and film, the tipping was suddenly stopped and the rear of the wagon was quickly closed up on what remained. When the wagon left the site some of the substance was visible and clinging to the rear, open to the elements and able to leave a trail of contamination in its wake.

I spoke to the site manager and asked him what the substance was that had been tipped. His reply was “ I don’t know. I think it might be glue. He’s (the driver) been sent away to get the right paperwork.” When asked if the tipping would have continued if no one had been watching and filming he denied it (naturally).

We will never learn the truth about how many other loads have been tipped without the right paperwork, or how many lives this unknown substance has contaminated during its journey to and from the site. No doubt a statement will be issued from somewhere telling us next that sniffing glue is harmless!

The incident was reported to the Environment Agency.

Later on...

Following my complaint to the E.A. this morning I am now informed by them that the unknown substance was Potato Starch (yeah!), non toxic and no danger to health etc. (Provides a good feed for the vermin though) They claim that only once the tipping had started did some discrepancy with the paperwork arise. The paperwork was described as ambiguous (very cloak and dagger in my view) hence the load was rejected. So, no point rushing out to sniff the air for a whiff of glue to get high on, we’ll just have to suffer clogged pipes and tubes from inhaling Potato starch instead.

This story illustrates why it's so important that people continue to keep an eye on the site, not just first thing in the morning, but whenever tipping is taking place. A pair of binoculars, camera and, if you have one, a video camera are useful to have with you. A footpath runs around two sides of the site with excellent views down into the tip. Can someone add Karen Sinclair and Martyn Jones to the rota please?

Carwyn to visit Hafod

You could say this is a victory for the campaign - Assembly minister Carwyn Jones has been forced to do a u-turn and says he will now visit the Hafod site "privately" (we hope this doesn't mean sneaking over the fence when nobody's looking!)

He's also agreed to meet a small delegation of the protesters down in Cardiff, having originally said that even meeting them would "prejudice his opinion".

Being a cynic, I'm inclined to believe that this is a desperate spin by politicians who are seriously concerned about the fallout from Hafod. They have not listened to the people and they know the people will have their say next May. So the spin doctors have decided to try to weave a positive headline for their political masters - sorry, folks, it hasn't worked. Carwyn was wrong to ignore the protest at the start and he's wrong to try to gain political advantage from his u-turn now. If it's a private visit, why announce it?

Hafod protest goes to Cardiff Bay

A busload of Hafod campaigners livened up proceedings outside the National Assembly in Cardiff Bay today. The campaigners were asking Assembly minister Carwyn Jones to revoke planning permission on the landfill at Hafod quarry, Johnstown.
A fuller report follows, but we thought you'd like to see the pictures now...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A trip to Cardiff for Martyn Jones?

It seems that our MP Martyn Jones is planning to be at the Welsh Assembly Building to meet Hafod Quarry protesters tomorrow. If this is true, we wonder why Martyn needs to travel all the way to Cardiff to meet us when at least a dozen of his constituents are outside the quarry gates protesting about the landfill every morning except Sunday. No Martyn there even though it's on his doorstep. Nothing to do with the presence of the media and a handy photo opportunity in Cardiff, we hope.

We've heard that various local politicians, from councillors through to MPs and AMs, are starting to worry about their votes next time round if the Welsh Assembly allows landfill to continue at the quarry. It's all very well to make the right noises, but the people of Wrexham won't forget which politicians failed to offer real support when it was most needed.

If the Assembly does the dirty on us and allows landfill to continue at Hafod, we hope that all those Labour politicians who said they supported us will do the decent thing and resign from the Party in protest.

Hafod Quarry makes national news

I wouldn't normally just reproduce articles here - especially after criticising Nick Colbourne for cutting and pasting those minutes of a Wrexham Council Meeting. :o)
However, this article by Pauline Smout in The Guardian last week deserves to be reproduced. Pauline has been campaigning against landfill in the Ruabon and Johnstown areas for about 20 years. We're off to Cardiff tomorrow to take our case to the Welsh Assembly.


Pauline Smout
Wednesday October 4, 2006

You may know those dense red bricks and floor tiles beloved by the Victorians. They were mostly made from clay dug in the Ruabon area of north-east Wales. The mining has all but stopped but the legacy is a series of deep pits, which are immensely attractive to councils in Liverpool and the north-west for dumping waste in.

Unfortunately, the Victorians and local councils built thousands of houses around these sites, and in this small area south of Wrexham we now have three major landfill sites and a toxic lagoon that is too dangerous to treat.

Gardden Lodge, the smallest of the three landfill sites, has closed, which is just as well because it was the closest in Europe to housing. The second, still functioning, is on a loop of the River Dee - environmentally, a crazy place to site a waste dump. The third, Hafod quarry, had an old permission to allow waste to be dumped there but looked saved after it was designated a special area of conservation (SAC) because of the presence of a large colony of great crested newts.

Other SAC sites have visitor centres, but not this one. Hafod has an earth bund, 37 metres long and 15 metres high, built by Mersey Waste Holdings, a company set up by Merseyside councils. The newts have been moved to allow the city of Liverpool to dump millions of tonnes of rubbish in it for up to 44 years. This has struck a raw nerve.

Liverpool city council recently apologised to north Wales for flooding the village of Tryweryn when it built a giant reservoir there some 50 years ago to supply Liverpool with water. We wrote to the mayor asking for a similar official apology for having dumped city waste on our doorsteps for 19 years. He replied that he was not responsible for where Liverpool's waste goes.

The lorries have started rolling in, even before the legal issues have been resolved, and we, the people who live nearby and who have put up with rubbish dumps for so long, picket the site daily. We are bathed in the foul, warm air emanating from the lorries; already our eyes are sore.

We know what lies ahead - the retching, the smells, the swarms of flies, the dust, the tummy bugs, the asthma. We believe that people in this area have suffered cleft palates, miscarriages, eye problems and hormonal disorders in the past because of the waste dumped in our midst. Now we expect the same again.

But what about the law? The case has been though a planning inquiry and to the high court. In legal terms, it comes down to the waste company trying to justify its old planning permission. We pinned our hopes on the high court case, held last year in London, but the Welsh assembly barrister declined to give evidence and the case collapsed. Because no case was presented, the judge could give no judgment. So although we "won", it was a Pyrrhic victory because we had not legally proved that the 1995 planning permission was unworkable.

Experience has taught us to have no confidence in the authorities. The Environment Agency and its predecessors have consistently failed us. The Countryside Council for Wales - there to protect wildlife - appears to have blessed the desecration of a protected site.

Nobody should be expected to live with landfill all their lives. The quarrymen who mined this clay made millions for the Ruabon brick companies. They would never dream that their descendants would be condemned to live unhealthy lives while waste companies make millions today. We pray that the Welsh assembly, which will soon decide our fate, will now apply natural justice and issue a revocation or discontinuance order.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Stop Landfill at Hafod Now!

This is what we can look forward to if landfill at Hafod is allowed to continue:

REPORT FROM NORTH WALES WEEKLY NEWS (Colwyn Bay) Thursday 5th October 2006:

Picture from North Wales Weekly News 5/10/06

A stench coming from Llandulas's rubbish tip is the worst for 15 years, say local residents. Authorities have received complaints about methane gases coming from the landfill site, and the Environment Agency says it is taking enforcement action against the company which runs the tip. But villagers say the smell is unbearable and they cannot put up with the whiff any longer. [One villager] says people are literally sick of the smell.

"Llandulas is a lovely place to live but this is spoiling the village... It's an awful problem. It smells of rotten eggs and can be very strong for hours at a time."

...Llandulas councillor Brenda Taylor [said]... "Some people can't even open their windows in their own home."...

In recent weeks unlined side-walls have meant rubbish hs been placed in the centre of the tip, while a gas extraction system couldn't be put in place until the walls were insulated with a plastic and clay lining. After 70 complaints the Environment Agency is taking enforcement action under the Pollution Prevention and Control permit to make sure the landfill is better run, and claim the problem should start to improve within weeks...

[An EA spokesperson said]" In recent weeks there have been odours detected from beyond the site boundary, resulting in a significant number of substantiated complaints... Such odours constitute breaches of WRG's permit."...

Nick Blake, regional operations manager for WRG said... "The recent odour problems from the landfill site are regrettable and the company acknowledges it has caused concern for some local residents," he said.

The amount of rubbish in Hafod at the moment is not huge, but the smell is already significant and unpleasant and extends well beyond the boundary of the site. If it smells like that now...

Friday, October 06, 2006

The quarry today

Had a stroll round the perimeter fence of Hafod today. As I set off round the tip, a West Pennine Recycling wagon was just arriving with a load of what appeared, through my binoculars, to be building rubble, pallets etc. There was a huge cloud of dust as it was tipped out onto the day's rubbish heap. Here it is after the dust had settled a bit.

west pennine rubble

West Pennine Recycling is a Buckley firm which is, according to its website, "an environmentally friendly specialist waste management service that effectively disposes of Commercial and Industrial waste in the Chester and North Wales region" and which uses the slogan "Looking After You!" But not us, obviously. Does landfill constitute effective disposal? Is West Pennine near Buckley? Here's the day's rubbish being flattened out as the West Pennine truck leaves the site.

one day's rubbish

As I reached the top of the site, another truck arrived, this one from Wrexham. Answers and Solutions Wrexham Ltd. boasts that "our customers can be sure that their waste and rubbish is disposed in the most responsible and environmentally friendly manner possible." Yeah? I couldn't see what it was tipping from my vantage point and the truck had left by the time I got back. Presumably that was the last truck of the day (just before 4pm) because as I walked back along the perimeter, the diggers and dumpers were busy covering up the rubbish with soil.

covering up

Hafod Quarry is one huge hole. This picture puts the tip in context, with houses and Ruabon Mountain visible in the background.

one huge hole

Click on any of the pictures to see larger versions.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Which side are you on, councillor?

Councillor Nick Colbourne thinks he's too important to join the people of Ruabon and Johnstown in protesting about the Hafod quarry. His blog makes it clear that he won't be joining the morning protest - because he thinks that there's a conflict of interest between being a magistrate and representing his ward, which happens to include the Hafod landfill site.
Cllr Colbourne has made his choice clear - he rates being a magistrate as more important than being a councillor. He is standing aside from a battle where people's health is being put at risk. If that's the case, councillor, it's time to let someone else take your place who will listen to his electors and stand shoulder to shoulder with them.

Damage Limitation Exercises - Labour Hits Back

Rumour has it that various New Labour politicians are somewhat ruffled by the comments made on this blog about their actions (or lack thereof) on the quarry issue. The last day or so has seen a flurry of activity in blogland and in the Ruabon veg shop where they've been queuing up to sign the petition against landfill. Here's a picture from Nick Colbourne's blog, showing Karen Sinclair signing.

About 4,000 or so other people have already signed this petition. The Evening Leader would've needed a few extra pages if they'd all issued press releases to announce their happy events as Karen and Nick did. Not quite sure why the Leader article says they were signing the Leader coupons as they clearly aren't. Never mind - perhaps we'll be treated to a picture of them filling in their coupons in tomorrow's edition.

Under the picture, there's about a mile of text. Gosh! He's got a lot of spare time on his hands, but on closer inspection it turns out to be the blogger's cop-out - a cut and paste job. Nick's posted minutes from a full council meeting a year ago (Halloween to be exact), a dismal attempt to prove New Labour's anti-landfill credentials. Sadly, I had the misfortune to be present at this particular council meeting, so I heard the arguments put forward by Labour members. Mostly, they seemed very upset that the Wrexham incinerator was no longer on the cards - it had finally been abandoned as an option a week or two before. One after another, the Labour councillors stood up and announced in various roundabout ways how everything would have been much better if we'd just gone along with the INCINERATION plan. Yeah, right. That would've reduced landfill ok, but we'd all be breathing in dioxins... not that that seemed to worry some Labour councillors, such as ex-leader of the council and OBE Shân Wilkinson, who doesn't believe in any of the scientific evidence about the harmful effects of dioxins and would be perfectly happy for her grandchildren to live next door to an incinerator. So she says.

That was yesterday's blog. On Tuesday, Nick Colbourne posted this explanation for his non-attendance at the quarry protests:

"I can say here and now, that absence will continue due to the potential conflict with my role as a JP on Wrexham Bench. I have taken extensive advice from both the MA and the Clerk to the Justices on the matter and as a result of that advice, I'm not going to partake in any action which could result in embarassment for the Magistracy. If that upsets a minority then so be it. I value my contribution to public service through that sphere and I will continue to make it.
In no way whatsoever does that decision alter, affect or detract from my belief that landfill is WRONG! I shall always argue against landfilling, not just at Hafod, but elsewhere."

Hang on a minute, Nick. You're the elected councillor for this area. What right has the Magistracy to tell you what you can and can't do in your capacity as local councillor or in your free time? Embarrassment for them? That's more important than the health and well-being of your constituents, is it? Get your priorities right! You're right about the conflict of interests though. Clearly you can't continue to be a magistrate and an effective local councillor. So which one is going to go?

Perhaps Nick's constituents could be polled - Should Nick give up being a magistrate so he can represent you properly, or should he give up being your councillor so he won't embarrass his magisterial colleagues being seen standing next to angry residents with banners and placards? What do you think?

Steaming hot pics

Don't get too excited - this is what the rubbish looks like after it's been fermenting in the wagons over the weekend. Just be grateful they haven't worked out how to transfer smells over the internet yet.

a steaming heap of...

More photos of Hafod can be found here.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Coach to Cardiff on October 11th

Hafod Environmental Group will be taking a coach to Cardiff to lobby Carwyn Jones at the Welsh Assembly on Wednesday 11th October, leaving from outside the shop on Bangor Road, Johnstown at 6.45am. For more information, or to book your place, call 01978 841335.

Because of a football match, it won't be possible to spend all day in Cardiff (or we might get stuck there!) Please bring food to keep you going on the coach on the way down as we won't have time to stop for a meal en route. We should be in Cardiff before midday. Contributions welcome towards the cost of the coach, whether you're able to come along or not.

Monday, October 02, 2006

New Labour Sinks to New Depths

OK, what exactly IS going on with our New Labour politicians?

At the planning committee meeting on September 4th, three Labour councillors voted for revocation of the Hafod planning permission; two voted for modification and one said he supported the campaign against landfill at Hafod but he left the meeting before the vote was taken.


Since then, we have Gareth Griffiths of Coedpoeth, pictured above, (who voted to revoke) having a go at Janet Ryder's statement of opinion in the Welsh Assembly and suggesting that Plaid Cymru won't be campaigning against the next landfill site. Maybe they will and maybe they won't, but if people don't campaign against this one, there's every chance that Wrexham's rubbish will also end up going to Hafod. Landfill per se is bad and we need a lot less of it, but that needs positive campaigning and political action towards zero waste policies. The main point about Hafod as opposed to other landfill sites is that it is the WRONG PLACE for landfill. It might be a nice, big hole, enough for 20 years worth of rubbish, but it is just 150m from local housing, is likely to leach poison into Dee tributaries, includes a protected wildlife site and wouldn't qualify for planning permission under current rules and regulations. Hope to see you at the daily protests soon, Gareth.


Then there's Nick Colbourne, above, (who voted to revoke and whose ward covers Hafod) conspicuous by his absence at the Hafod protests since the planning meeting. However, he has been writing criticisms of the planning committee on his blog - he criticises planning committee members, including members of his own party presumably, for refusing to set a precedent and revoke the Hafod permission while, just a fortnight later, they seem to be falling over themselves to set a precedent by allowing building outside the Unitary Development Plan settlement limit. Their excuse for such a radical decision: community benefit. Shame they couldn't see the community benefit of revocation at Hafod. New Labour's policies aren't immune from Colbourne's criticism either. Elsewhere in his blog he blasts New Labour for charging tuition fees which have caused his daughter to abandon her university studies. So, where are you, Nick? We need your continuing support for the Hafod fight.

What about our Members of Parliament?


There's Martyn Jones, who seems rather confused by the whole issue. In last Friday's Evening Leader, he was quoted as saying "I would rather this hadn't have gone ahead at all but unfortunately the 1995 permission is still in existence and it would cost a lot of money to the council tax payers in Wrexham if the council were to revoke it. [Bit late for that thought, Martyn, even if it were correct which it isn't.] I believe therefore it is now the responsibility of the Welsh Assembly to step in and revoke this planning permission." Therefore? Does that mean it won't cost council taxpayers any money if the Assembly revoke? That's not what Carwyn Jones thinks. We don't believe that MWH would be entitled to any compensation in any of these circumstances, and for Martyn Jones to make statements in the press to say that they would is really not terribly helpful. What's more, it isn't unfortunate that the 1995 permission still stands - it's a scandal! Is Jonesy trying to distance himself from the Assembly decision in case it affects his popularity with the 28% of his constituents who voted for him at the last election?

ian lucas

What about Wrexham MP Ian Lucas, who doesn't seem to have said very much at all about landfill at Hafod? You may be interested to learn that Ian is a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Packaging Manufacturing Industry. The aim of this group is "to create a better understanding of UK packaging manufacture; to address issues facing industry from regulation; and to promote the UK as a centre of excellence for packaging manufacture." The packaging manufacturing industry is a rather powerful lobby - more packaging means more profit for the packaging industry of course, but more landfill waste for us to dispose of. Perhaps Ian's constituents might ask him to lobby the industry on the issue of over-packaging and to urge companies to develop ecological alternatives to current non-reusable and unrecyclable packaging.


Labour AM Karen Sinclair appears to have given up the Hafod fight very early on. She has been totally silent on the issue on her web site since August, before the planning decision not to revoke was made. But back in August she said: “The planning permission tragically [tragically? - that's even worse than Martyn Jones' unfortunately] goes back to 1995 when it was granted on appeal. The Local Authority were opposed to it and so too were the local community. However, the planning inspectors went against the wishes of the community and unfortunately there was no right of appeal... The issue that is of greatest importance now is that the operator, Mersey Waste Holdings, are meticulous in complying with the terms of their licence as it is laid down. Mersey Waste must follow the conditions in the licence to the letter, the community will accept nothing less. Make no mistake, I will help ensure a very close eye is kept on them at all times and will work closely with the Environment Agency to make sure that they adhere in every respect to the conditions set out in the licence. The safety of residents is paramount and I will be taking every opportunity to ensure that this comes first and no breaches occur. Any such breach of the strict licence conditions that does occur should and will be punished by the relevant authorities."

Fine words, Karen, but where have you been all these weeks? How exactly are you ensuring that a very close eye is kept on MWH? What opportunities have you taken to ensure safety of residents comes first (which can only really be achieved by stopping landfill) and that no breaches occur? If you'd been doing this self-appointed job, we wouldn't have had to report breaches to the Environment Agency nearly every day.


First Minister of the Welsh Assembly Rhodri Morgan was in Flintshire opening a new kiln at Padeswood Cement Works last Friday (29th September). No-one had mentioned space or the afterlife, but just in case anyone present might have been thinking of possible other-worldly solutions to our pollution problems, Rhodri was quick to bring them back down to earth. Questioned about safety concerns over the new kiln he said: "Cement does not arrive from some convenient line in space to our building sites. It has to come from cement works." When asked about the landfill he said: "There will always be an issue about where waste will go because there is no convenient line to Heaven where it can go." Er... right... rather implies that he'd like Heaven to be a giant landfill site if he had the choice, doesn't it?

He also said: "We always have to find the right balance between people's emotions and the correct ways of dealing with waste." Wrong, Rhodri. What we're talking about here is a council which has found the wrong balance between people's health and the incorrect ways of dealing with waste. Wrexham Council has opted to support business interests and the interests of Merseyside council administrations over your own party's policy on landfill and over the health and well-being of Wrexham people. How did you get to become First Minister with crass statements like this, eh?


Last but not least, what has Carwyn Jones, Minister for the Environment, Planning and Countryside got to say about all this? In his Cabinet Written Statement, Carwyn chooses to ignore the issue of the distance the waste is travelling to get to Hafod (even though the proximity principle is government policy). He also states that "the local authority decided against revoking or discontinuing the permission. They decided instead to make a Modification Order to ensure that the landfill does not effect [surely "affect", Carwyn] the nearby Special Area of Conservation." Pull the other one! A Modification Order might satisfy the council, the Environment Agency and the Welsh Assembly, but it's not going to do anything for the newts, the Special Area of Conservation or the people of Johnstown who are going to have to live with landfill on their doorstep.

Let's hope Carwyn doesn't forget this part of his statement: The WAG's "policy is to consider such action , [rescinding the planning consent or Discontinuance presumably] only where the original decision is judged to be grossly wrong, so that damage would be done to the wider public interest." So long as the "wider public interest" doesn't include big business interests, the case for closing Hafod is very strong, but Carwyn goes on with a veiled threat: "If the Assembly intervened, compensation might be payable and this would be met by the local authority."

Just in case we missed this bit of Carwyn's statement, replies from the Welsh Assembly Planning Division to letters from members of the public about this issue say it again: "Compensation is payable on the making of an Order but this will not be one of the issues which is considered in the decision making process." The WAG has already decided that Mersey Waste would be entitled to compensation, has it? We're not so sure about that!

So, what does all this point to? Is Carwyn going to dump us in it (literally), leaving all the other Labour politicians to try and distance themselves from this vote-losing decision? What do you think? Why not write to one or more of these Labour politicians and ask them a question or two about Hafod?

To contact your local councillor, MP, AM or MEP, click here.

Councillor Colbourne

Nick Colbourne, the Ruabon councillor, posted this on his blog on Sept 22:

Here's a copy of an email sent to me by the Chief Planning officer:

On the 19th September the Assembly (via a 'Motion of Opinion' put down by Janet Ryder AM) 'asked' the Minister for Planning to revoke the Hafod landfill permission. This motion has no status as such other than to raise the issue with the Minister.

Separately the Minister has been asked to revoke the permission by at least one AM/MP.

The officers at the Planning Division have indicated that the Minister will issue a press release to the Daily Post and/or Western Mail on this issue in the middle of next week. This press release will not issue a decision on the matter, or express an opinion on whether it should be revoked, but will explain the (rare) circumstances under which such action can be taken.

The Minister will take a decision on the matter probably some time in October, which is likely to be when our Modification Order is served on Mersey Waste Holdings. (This order is presently being prepared using specialist lawyers).

I have sent this to you in case you receive reports that the Assembly has 'decided' to revoke.

Regards, Lawrence
Lawrence Isted
Chief Planning Officer

A few questions arise:
• Why is Lawrence Isted, supposedly neutral, so eager to belittle the Statement of Opinion?
• Why is Carwyn Jones waiting until the Modification Order is served on Murky Waste?
• Indeed, who needs a Modification Order if the Assembly is going to revoke?
• How closely are the council and Assembly working to pull the wool over people's eyes?
• Why does this e-mail smell worse than the average landfill site?

Oh, and if anyone sees Nick Colbourne, can you tell him that the Hafod quarry is in his ward and he's welcome to come on the daily picket by the gate at any time. Unlike some councillors, who are listening to their constituents, Mr Colbourne seems to have decided that all is lost over the Hafod.