A hugely divisive landfill site could expand near to a county beauty spot in East Northamptonshire.
East Northants Resource Management Facility (ENRMF)'s owner Augean is currently preparing an application for a Development Consent Order for an extension onto fields next to the existing site, that could extend the time it will be active as a landfill site, and doubling the area in size.
The proposal could see expansion of the deep pits, where hazardous waste and low-level radioactive waste are disposed of, into fields between the present landfill site and Fineshade Woods, north of Kings Cliffe.
Members of Friends of Fineshade woods have encouraged residents and users of the ancient woodlands to voice their opinions on the expansion plans by January 8, 2021.
A spokesman for Friends of Fineshade said: "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.
"Both Collyweston Great Wood and Fineshade Wood 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."
In an online exhibition supporting their proposal Augean has set out their plans for the landfill site and the restoration of the area scheduled to take place by December 2046.
Augean said: "Augean is carrying out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the proposal. As part of this pre-application consultation a Preliminary Environmental Information Report (PEIR) has been prepared to explain the potentially significant impacts and benefits of the proposed development. The purpose of this consultation is to seek views on this information from the local community as well as statutory consultees before finalising the design and the studies.
"The PEIR presents the environmental information collected to date and provides an initial assessment of any likely significant environmental effects."
The company estimates that an extra 2 million cubic metres of landfill space would be created by the project to allow an increase of the tonnage of waste currenty processed annually, including items with a level of radioactivity of up to 200 Becquerels per gram.
Radioactive waste is produced by the nuclear power industry and comes from other sources such as hospitals.
Hazardous wastes include construction and demolition wastes like contaminated soils, treated wood and asbestos, electronic wastes such as fluorescent tubes, computer equipment and televisions,cleaning cloths, filters and soiled protective clothing and residue from other forms of waste treatment including ash from incinerators or dewatered sludge from treatment plants.
No liquids, explosive, flammable, oxidising, corrosive or infectious wastes are accepted at landfill sites
Augean said in a report to Northamptonshire County Council: "This is a very low level of activity and even in worst case assessments will result in additional radioactive exposures that are at insignificant levels and represent a tiny fraction of exposure that the public receives from natural background levels.
"The waste from the power stations largely comprises slightly contaminated soils and building rubble, but as they contain low levels of radioactivity they have to be disposed of under specific controls. Nationally there is need for disposal capacity mainly to enable the decommissioning of the current nuclear power industry and other sources of this type of waste such as hospitals".
The proposals at ENRMF are classified as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) under the Planning Act 2008 and consent must be granted by the Secretary of State in the form of a Development Consent Order (DCO). Augean will submit the DCO application to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) rather than to any local council.
PINS is an impartial public body whose role is to consider all important and relevant matters and advise the Secretary of State whether consent should be granted for nationally significant infrastructure projects.
In 2011, hundreds of protestors had taken to the street of Kings Cliffe in opposition to the site taking low-level radioactive waste. Six people were arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass at a protest. Augean won the right to use the original site after a ruling by the Court of Appeal in January 2012.
The application for the proposed development requires that it is supported by a series of Environmental Impact Assessments with reports prepared settings out details of the current site and the surrounding environment, describing the proposed development and includes technical studies that have been undertaken to date to assess the potential environmental impacts.
The spokesman for Friends of Fineshade added: "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 is the wrong location for an extension to the landfill site. Augean should be using their opportunity to connect the two species-rich woodlands now, not to separate them by deep pits and steel fences. The disconnection would create a significant biodiversity loss.
"The proposed restoration plans look good, but it won't come about until 2046, by which time it will be too late for threatened species. There is an alternative- the fields to the south of the existing site, need to be properly assessed."
To have your say email [email protected], write a letter to ENRMF Project Office, 52 The Tannery, Lawrence St, York, YO10 5WH or call the office on 01904 654989 by Friday, January 8, 2021.