7 August 2020 by James Langley

‘Cut permitting red tape too’, says Biffa

Waste management company Biffa has called for planning and provision for waste infrastructure to be at the forefront of any planning system reforms.

And, in parallel to the government’s newly announced planning reforms, the company’s head of environmental and external affairs, Jeff Rhodes said there was also a need to review the Environment Agency permitting system to make sure that too could help speed development.

The company issued its calls after the publication by the government yesterday (6 August) of a white paper proposing reforms to speed up and modernise the planning system in England. 

Jeff Rhodes reasoned that a review of the EA’s permitting system is also needed

Radical changes to planning rules will see the government sweep away many current restrictions. 

Integration

Jeff Rhodes, head of environment and external affairs at Biffa, said: “Whilst we welcome any new measures that help support a green recovery, the integration of planning and provision for waste infrastructure must be an essential element of planning system reform considerations.  

“Sustainable economic recovery and the creation of sustainable communities rely on a comprehensive land use planning system rather than a selective approach, which risks putting housing delivery in conflict with existing essential waste infrastructure as well as new waste and resources infrastructure provision to achieve circular economy ambitions. 

The government says it plans to streamline the planning process, cut red tape and harness technology to deliver projects faster. 

Reform 

Where previously the English planning system has been discretionary, the government now proposes to classify land into three zones, with planning permission awarded automatically if proposals meet certain criteria. 

Approval for the development of new homes, hospitals, schools, shops and offices in ‘growth’ zones will be granted automatically at the same time that plans are prepared. 

‘Renewal’ areas will see permission given in principle, subject to basic checks. Development on Green Belt land will continue to be restricted. 

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: “These once in a generation reforms will lay the foundations for a brighter future, providing more homes for young people and creating better quality neighbourhoods and homes across the country.  

“We will cut red tape, but not standards, placing a higher regard on quality, design and the environment than ever before.” 

The proposals have been criticised by environmental charities, with Kate Gordon, senior planner at Friends of the Earth, saying: “These planning reforms are bad news for our communities, climate, and local democracy.” 

Permits 

Biffa also called for an overhaul of the Environment Agency’s permitting system. 

Mr Rhodes said: “Furthermore, in order to ensure the timely delivery of waste infrastructure, we encourage an urgent review of the Environmental Agency’s permit regime to be more supportive of development and investment, like the planning system.” 

Biffa’s demands echo views expressed on 1 July by the Environmental Services Association (ESA), the trade association representing the UK’s resource and waste management industry. 

Then the executive director of the Jacob Hayler said: “To unlock our investment potential in green infrastructure, our sector needs clarity over the final shape of the government’s Resources & Waste Strategy this year and the removal of significant barriers in the regulatory process caused by a lack of permitting capacity at the Environment Agency, which is currently resulting in vital projects being unnecessarily delayed for months and, in some cases, years.  

“What should be a 15-week process can currently take closer to 15 months and unless permitting capacity is increased, this will constrain our ability to support a near-term green recovery to the fullest extent.”  

1COMMENTS

By its own admission, the EA cannot even examine a permit application to confirm it is duly made for up to 20 weeks from receipt for a new application and 23 weeks for a variation to an existing permit. The time taken on two projects that I have been involved with recently has been longer than this. What needs to be examined urgently is the management of the organisation and the resources within it. We need regulation and its enforcement for the industry to function properly, but it has to be applied in a timely manner and not act as a road block stopping developments moving forward.
The fault probably lies with the Government and the budgetary constraints that have been applied. Claiming to be at the forefront of promoting sustainability and then throttling it by not allowing the mechanisms that will facilitate it to work properly is two-faced to say the least.

Posted by Keith Riley on August 7, 2020

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