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.


At Monday, October 02, 2006 11:17:00 PM, Anonymous seren said...

Good post - who decided compensation of £10 million should be payable to the crooks at Murkey Waste? This sounds like a real stitch up by people (like the ones you mention) to avoid having to fight.
Karen Sinclair will have plenty of time on her hands in eight months' time... perhaps she'll get down to the quarry gate then!

At Tuesday, October 03, 2006 3:00:00 PM, Blogger NIMBY2 said...

For a man with his head firmly in the sand, First Minister Rhodri Morgan would appear to be on another planet. He has recently been quoted as letting us know we can't dump our waste in Heaven and that cement doesn't come from space. The man is obviously a genius...... Now. we just need to find a black hole big enough to accommodate him, Murky Waste Holdings and all their Merseyside rubbish and lorries which carry it, and our world will be a better place.


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