Extension to hazardous waste site
The site close to Fineshade Wood is known as the East Northants Resource Management Facility (ENRNF). It is operated by Augean PLC
In October 2019 Augean PLC issued the following press release:
Augean, one of the UK's leading specialist waste management businesses, has acquired an option to purchase approximately 90 acres of land adjacent to its existing East Northants Resource Management Facility landfill site near Peterborough. This option is Augean's preferred choice following their investigation of a number of alternative solutions to provide long term key infrastructure, aligning with the national need for hazardous landfill and soil treatment in the South of England. With appropriate planning and permitting consent, the extension that has been optioned would prolong the life of the ENRMF site until the mid‐2040s. ENRMF currently generates revenue of over £15m per annum and operating profit of over £8m.
Latest: 31 January 2020
Ground survey works are continuing and, because of the heavy rainfall this winter, metal track matting has been laid around and across the fields to reduce ground damage during the site investigation works.
In a nutshell
A few facts about Augean PLC and the present site
The company obtained planning permission for hazardous waste landfill in 2006 and subsequently applied to dispose of low-level radioactive waste at the site. There were strong protests from local communities, and the county council rejected the plan. However, Augean appealed to central government and in 2011 Eric Pickles, the secretary of state, approved the plans.
The company claims that ENRMF is "a nationally important facility for the safe, secure and well-regulated treatment and disposal of wastes that require specialist handling."
As well as many other types of hazardous waste, ENRMF is allowed to bury Hazardous and Non-Hazardous Low-Level Radioactive Waste and Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material. This waste comes from the Nuclear, Oil and Gas Industries, and from the Defence, Clinical, Mineral Extraction and Construction sectors, etc. www.augeanplc.com/waste-types/
Predicted Augean profit for 2019 is £16.5 million before tax augeanplc.com/2019/10/16/trading-update-oct-2019/ ENRMF alone currently generates revenue of over £15m per annum and operating profit of over £8m. (Press release - Augean South Landfill Option
Under Landfill Tax legislation, Augean is required to pay tax (currently £94 per tonne) on the material buried in the site. Up to 6% of this levy can be distributed through the Landfill Communities Fund to support projects which either improve the life of communities or aid nature conservation. This process is managed by GrantScape, with support from the Kings Cliffe Environmental Association. Grants of approximately £500,000 per annum are provided.
Augean is currently in dispute with HMRC because of underpayment of landfill tax to the tune of £4.6m over a 5-year period to May 2018 (Press release: HMRC Intended Penalty Notification
Present view of ENRNF from Fineshade Wood. The silos are part of the soil processing plant
One of the current "cells" showing the depth of clay that helps to make this site suitable
Which fields are threatened?
During an open day on 23rd November 2019 visitors were shown the map on the right indicating the position of the two arable fields (diagonal shading). The existing site is partially shown by the rectangular area on the right, with clay pits and the soil processing plant top left. The buildings in the bottom centre of the rectangle are believed to be farm buildings serving Howard Farms.
The green area on the left is the northeast corner of the Fineshade Wood complex whereas the wood top right is the National Nature Reserve, Collyweston Great Wood, with its hidden area of derelict MOD bunkers, formerly part of Wittering Airfield to the north.
Crossing the fields and, no doubt, providing engineering challenges, are three utilities. A high pressure gas main, a large diameter water supply pipe linking to Rutland Water, and elevated electricity cables.
Much more important to the viability of the proposed extension site is the depth of underlying clay. A short distance to the northwest lies an active limestone quarry where the rock comes very close indeed to the surface. Augean stress that they are carrying out feasibility tests and have not yet decided whether the proposed area will be possible and profitable to use.
What about wildlife?
Both Collyweston Great Wood (SSSI) and Fineshade Wood (on the list for SSSI designation) have a rich diversity of wildlife and have many unusual and threatened species. For example there are small populations of Adders in both woods. There are also Dormice, Newts and many unusual plants.
Currently the two arable fields provide a means (albeit imperfect) for some of these populations to interact. Friends of Fineshade have long wished to see the two woods linked more firmly, but the proposed deep pits filled with hazardous waste would separate the two important woodland areas much more completely. It will be decades before the pits are filled, capped and the top surface restored to natural habitat: by then it may well be too late for some of these locally threatened species.
A different option
We understand that the two arable fields belong to Howard Farms and they have offered Augean an option to purchase. But the same landowner farms the fields immediately to the south (and east) of the current site. Using that land to the south would be far less damaging for wildlife, as it will not cause further fragmentation of the woodland areas.
We realise that extending to the south could lead to the the two western fields being left "stranded", with no connections to the rest of the farmland. Therefore it would be preferable for the two western fields to be bought by Augean and converted to woodland or wood-pasture, making a significant new wildlife area in mitigation for a profitable southern extension to the landfill facility.
This proposal would fit with Natural England's vision for the wider landscape of Rockingham Forest. In particular see the map showing the wider area and how these important these two fields are to that vision.
Below is the more northern of the two arable fields showing the proximity of Fineshade Wood (left) to the National Nature Reserve (right). Drilling is taking place to determine the depth of clay.
What is habitat fragmentation and what does it mean for our wildlife? (Woodland Trust)
Habitat Fragmentation (Trees for Life)
The DEFRA 25-Year Environment Plan (2018): "We will develop a strategy for nature to tackle biodiversity loss, develop a Nature Recovery Network to complement and connect our best wildlife sites...
"Such a network will deliver on the recommendations from Professor Sir John Lawton: recovering wildlife will require more habitat; in better condition; in bigger patches that are more closely connected...
We will also continue to work with partners around our National Nature Reserves encouraging wildlife to brim over and colonise new sites."
Policy 21 of the North Northamptonshire Joint Core Strategy outlines steps to regenerate Rockingham Forest. In particular this will be achieved by linking fragmented habitats and protecting and reinforcing ancient woodland.
View across the northern field towards ENRNF showing heaps of clay and the current works.
View across the southern field towards ENRNF showing the current works. The proposed extension would bring operations right up to the Oak tree in the foreground.