Statement in relation to the Augean proposed extension
28 October 2021
Augean PLC operates the East Northants Resource Management Facility (ENRMF) landfill site close to the northwest corner of Fineshade Wood. The site handles hazardous waste materials and low-level nuclear waste, burying them in the clay. Augean are currently seeking permission to extend the site closer to Fineshade Wood.
Following a public consultation in which many Friends of Fineshade took part, the company has now moved to the next stage of the lengthy planning process by making an application to the Secretary of State for a Development Consent Order. Until 9 December there is the opportunity to "Register as an Interested Party” with a view to taking further part in the planning process.
Friends of Fineshade have long hoped that it would, one day, be possible to connect Fineshade Wood with Collyweston Great Wood and that the narrow stretch of farmland (picture below) currently separating the two species-rich areas could be replaced with habitat that would enable the easier passage of animals and the spread of plants. Therefore we do not welcome the plans to include that field in the proposed ENRMF expansion, changing the arable field to a pit where hazardous waste can be buried.
However, Augean’s latest plans indicate that, once the pit is full, it will be restored to the type of rich habitat that will meet requirements for it to be adopted as a Local Wildlife site, meeting several of the Northamptonshire Biodiversity Action Plan habitat creation targets. There will be a mosaic of woodland with shrubby edges, meadow grassland, ponds, scattered trees and hedgerows. Both Natural England and the Wildlife Trust BCN have been working closely with Augean’s ecologists to maximise this potential and that is reflected in the latest version of the plans. In due course there will also be a new footpath and carpark, enabling public access from the east to and from Fineshade.
Furthermore Augean are proposing to phase operations so that the northern field will be the first to be worked and the first to be restored. Their current projection is that restoration there will be completed within 7 years of the start of excavation work.
We believe that there is little, if any, likelihood of the whole scheme being refused – the country sadly needs somewhere to dispose of this waste. Years ago the application for the existing site was vehemently and almost unanimously opposed by local people and by the county council but, despite that, the development was pushed through by the Secretary of State. If there were to be a similar fight now it would be likely to result in a similar outcome. However, it is unlikely that there will be such wholehearted opposition this time: Augean’s contributions to local community life through landfill tax have been substantial and they also provide local employment. Extending the working life of the site will extend these benefits too.
We have tried to convince Augean that there is an alternative field to the south but they have repeatedly claimed that the current landowner will not make that land available and we have no way of verifying that claim. Therefore we have reluctantly concluded that the current plan does represent the best opportunity to restore the connection between the two species-rich woodlands.
So in summary while we do not support the expansion of ENRMF we believe that it is inevitable. Our interventions in the public consultation may have resulted in a better and faster planned restoration of the northern field that will connect Fineshade and Collyweston Great Wood. Individual Friends may decide to register as an interested party for the next phase of the planning process but at this stage we have no plans to take an active role by submitting written evidence or speaking at the hearings.
If planning permission is granted we will very actively monitor progress towards the planned restoration and look forward to the time when it is complete.
View of the northernmost field currently separating Fineshade Wood from Collyweston Great Wood. For 5-7 years the two woods will be separated by an engineered waste tip before being topped over to form a dome with potentially rich habitat for wildlife.