Extension to hazardous waste site
The existing site near to Fineshade Wood is known as the East Northants Resource Management Facility (ENRNF).
It is operated by Augean PLC and in 2019 they 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.
However, the proposed site would sever the fragile connection between two important species-rich woods. There is an alternative location which would not have the same dire effects in biodiversity.... read on!
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/ The ENRMF site 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 has a long-running dispute with HMRC because of alleged underpayment of landfill tax to the tune of £4.6m over a 5-year period to May 2018
Latest: January 2021
In an email to Councillor Annabel de Capell Brooke, Augean made it clear that they will continue to accept and consider submissions to their public consultation until 15th February..
Augean are intending to make a planning application for a Development Consent Order to the Secretary of State. The first stage of the process is a formal public consultation which is open until 8th Jan.
Their webpage gives full details.
Go to this page of our website for advice on how to ensure that your views are registered as part of the public consultation. It can be done by email, by phone, by letter or online on the Augean website.
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?
This map shows the proposed extension on 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 farm buildings serving Howard Farms.
The green area on the left is the northeast corner of Fineshade Wood 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)
Crossing the proposed fields provides engineering challenges: a high pressure gas main, a large diameter water supply pipe linking to Rutland Water, and elevated electricity cables will all have to be diverted
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.
What about wildlife?
Both Collyweston Great Wood (SSSI and NNR) 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 insects and 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 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 important these two fields are to that vision.
How to have your say
During this pre-application stage there is an opportunity to help convince Augean that their choice of site is faulty. There is a public consultation and it's very easy to let Augean know what you think before they put in a formal planning application in the spring of 2021. Click here to learn how.
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.
The importance of connecting habitats
The DEFRA 25-Year Environment Plan:
"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."
What is habitat fragmentation and what does it mean for our wildlife? (Woodland Trust)
Habitat Fragmentation (Trees for Life)
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.
The woods should be reconnected now,
not severed by Augean for decades
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 photo was taken from a Public Right of Way through Fineshade Wood. The proposed extension would bring operations close up to the Oak tree in the foreground, about 200m away from the public path.