Tuesday, October 10, 2006

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.


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