Progress of the Planning Application to date
A joint outline planning application was submitted to Haringey Council by the North London Waste Authority (NLWA) and Barnet Council on 31 May 2011 for,
(a) the construction of a massive Mechanical Biological Treatment waste facility to manage 300,000 tonnes of waste per year for the NLWA, and
(b) a council vehicle depot for Barnet Council to accommodate their fleet of refuse, recycling and staff vehicles, plus a small office and storage building and a refueling station. Barnet Council’s existing vehicle depot is located at Mill Hill.
Immediately before submitting the planning application, the NLWA explained in their Pinkham Way Newsletter that they were applying for outline planning permission, “because we want to establish the use of the site for waste development and define the restrictions within which the companies bidding for the waste contract have to work”.
The suitability of the site for waste use, or otherwise, is a matter to be thrashed out at either the Examination in Public of the North London Waste Plan (NLWP), which is the strategic land plan for waste in North London, or at the Examination in Public of the strategic land plan for Haringey Council. It is not for Haringey Council’s planning committee (on the advice of an individual planning officer dealing with the application) to make such a strategic decision about a site of this size and overall value to the residents of Haringey.
These proposals have little benefit and a lot of detriment for Haringey and for its residents. Barnet Council has most to gain from it, and at Haringey’s expense. If successful, the relocation of Barnet Council’s vehicle depot would clear the way for the redevelopment and/or sale of the Mill Hill site. It would rid Barnet Council of a noisy and troublesome operation in Mill Hill, and instead dump it over the boundary into Haringey for Haringey’s residents to put up with. On its own, Barnet Council’s proposal would have had little or no chance of success, so it is a condition of sale of part of Pinkham Way to the NLWA, that the NLWA must make a joint planning application with Barnet Council. In effect, Barnet Council is trying to “piggyback” on the NLWA’s proposal for its waste facility.
Is the planning application ‘on hold’ or is it being processed to validation?
In July 2011, after considerable objections, and arguments from the local community that the application should not be considered until after the NLWP had been subjected to public scrutiny, Haringey Council declared that the application was being put ‘on hold’ until the completion of the Examination in Public of the NLWP, which was expected later that year.
To date it has not been possible to clarify exactly what ‘on hold’ actually means, but it is clear that it does not mean all activity on the application has stopped.
On 27 April 2012 Haringey Council stated, in a letter to a resident, that “the planning application continues to be on hold and has not been validated. While on hold, it will not progress to validation, consultation or decision.” … “Haringey Council and the applicants have agreed that the application should stay on hold and await public consultation, consideration and decision until after the Examination in Public into the NLWP is completed”.
In June 2012 Haringey Council stated, in another letter to a resident, that “ … the application is invalid because it is missing information necessary before it can be validated, once that information is supplied the application can and will be validated” (emphasis added).
It appears that in spite of their assurance that while “on hold” the planning application will not progress to validation, Haringey Council is continuing to process the application with a view to validating it. In reality, it is not “on hold” at all.
Planning Regulations require applications to be dealt with expeditiously
Haringey Council has had this application since May 2011, and it is known that pre-application discussions between the Council and the NLWA and Barnet Council have been taking place since late 2009. Even an application of this size and complexity should not take 18 months to validate. This application should either have been withdrawn by the applicants, or Haringey Council should have determined it as invalid many months ago.
How the Pinkham Way site came to be identified and offered up in the first place as suitable for waste use is still a mystery. There is no record in Haringey Council of any consideration being given to the benefits or disbenefits for Haringey of putting forward the Pinkham Way site as suitable for waste. Prior to local government reorganisation, the previous planning authority, Middlesex County Council, had designated the site as open space, and it is officially designated in Haringey’s Unitary Development Plan 2006 as a Grade 1 Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) of Borough-wide importance. Nobody in Haringey Council appears to have raised any questions about offering up a 13 acre site of borough wide importance for nature conservation.
A report was prepared for the Council’s Cabinet meeting of 8 Sept 2009. This report was entitled The North London Waste Plan – Preferred Options. It reported the process and projected timetable for preparing the NLWP. The Cabinet members were asked to agree the first draft of the NLWP for the purpose of consultation (the Draft Plan).
The report made no reference to the fact that one of the identified sites in the Draft Plan was in the Borough of Haringey, let alone that it was a very large 13 acre open space with a dual designation of borough wide importance for nature conservation and employment land.
The least that would have been expected in such a report was that it would bring to the Members’ attention relevant factors relating to the site which it was about to be allocated for waste use in the Draft Plan.
For example, it might have mentioned the fact that the largest site in the list of ten shortlisted sites in the Draft Plan (and indeed the site identified as being one of the two most suitable sites for inclusion in the Draft Plan) was actually the Pinkham Way site in the borough of Haringey. It would have been normal to see a summary description of the site, including the fact that it was designated a Grade 1 SINC of Borough-wide importance. It might have mentioned the likely adverse impact on the nature conservation value of the site if it was developed for waste use; i.e. most of the SINC would be lost. It would have been normal to have mentioned in the report that this SINC was not just any old SINC, or any old employment site, but a very large piece of land graded No 1 borough importance for nature conservation, half of which is covered in semi-mature woodland.
It would also have been normal for the report to summarize the impact on the Council’s strategic plan of losing 13 acres of green open space and a sizeable amount of woodland in one sweep, when Haringey has an overall deficit of open space and the Council has a commitment to increase the amount of woodland in the borough. Perhaps it might have included a sentence or two about the justification for releasing the site for waste use and even a little about the potential benefits to Haringey of a waste use on the site, and perhaps a little reassurance for members about mitigation for loss of residential amenity for those local residents who might be affected by the likely 24-hour operation!
But there was nothing, not even a short paragraph on any of these matters. The Cabinet minutes of that meeting do not mention the Pinkham Way site either, so presumably it was not brought to anyone’s attention verbally either, at the time the report was considered. The councillors listed in the minutes as present at this Cabinet meeting were Councillors Kober (Chair), Reith (Vice-Chair), Amin, Basu, Bevan, Canver, Dogus, Haley and B. Harris. Also listed as present were Cllrs Adamou, Alexander, Dobbie, Engert, Gorrie and Newton.
The other six NLWP participating Councils also received reports on the NLWP Preferred Options around the same time that year. In reports to these councils, wherever their land was identified, there were clear and specific references to what sites within their borough were ear marked and the implications for their council’s strategic plan. Haringey Council was the exception: even though it had the largest, and arguably the most valuable site in conservation terms, ear marked for inclusion in the NLWP, not a mention of the Pinkham Way site was made in its Cabinet report. The report and minutes of that Cabinet meeting are available on Haringey Council’s website.
The Pinkham Way site is approximately 13 acres (6.5 hectares) in size. Unusually, it had a dual designation. It was designated as a site suitable for employment use and as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation No 1 Borough Importance . PWA has argued that these designations cannot be reconciled and that the site should be designated a SINC only.
The site was used by the former Friern Barnet Sewage Works from about 1890. When that closed down in the early 1960’s, Middlesex County Council designated the site public open space. There was sporadic unlawful fly tipping and dumping on parts of the site between 1963 and 1980, but over the 50 years since the sewage works closed down, nature has taken its course. The Pinkham Way site has developed into a wonderful, mature, natural habitat.
It is covered in semi-mature woodland, scrub, grasses and wild flowers, providing food and shelter for a range of species, some protected by legislation. For example, it is known that bats use the site for foraging and possibly for roosting, and there have been recent reports of newts spotted on the site.
Nonetheless, at the Examination in Public of Haringey’s strategic plan it became clear that the Council considers this site to be a derelict, brownfield, well established industrial site suitable for industrial use. The Council gave no justification for taking that view, and we anticipate that the Inspector’s report will not support it.
Haringey’s Strategic Plan was subjected to Examination in Public (EiP) in February 2012. In the Strategic Plan, Haringey Council had proposed to change the dual designation of Pinkham Way to SINC and Locally Significant Industrial Site (LSIS). This would have allowed more intensive industrial use on the site with all the implications that would have for harm to the SINC.
PWA’s submission to the EiP argued strongly against this proposed change. We also argued that the site should not be treated as if it were a brownfield industrial site, but instead should be treated as a verdant open green space of considerable conservation value to the borough.
We are awaiting the Haringey EiP Inspector’s full decision, but he has already indicated by letter that he will not permit Haringey Council to change the designation of the Pinkham Way site to Locally significant Industrial Site . He said there was no justification for doing so. This is a major setback for Haringey Council (and the applicants) because the new designation would have brought the site within the ambit of the London Plan policies for land suitable for waste use.
The Inspector went further and proposed a major modification to Haringey Council’s new Employment Policy. He asked Haringey Council to carry out further public consultation on this modification. PWA responded by arguing that the site should not continue to have a dual designation because the two designations are not compatible. We also argued for stronger protection for the nature conservation value of the site. The Inspector’s report is expected early in 2013.
Haringey Council should withdraw the Pinkham Way site from the NLWP and carry out its own rigorous, proper and transparent assessment of the site. Only then will the community have confidence that the Pinkham Way site has been subjected to a fair and reasonable assessment of its true value.
The NLWP EiP commenced in June 2012, but was suspended almost immediately by the NLWP Planning Inspector, on the grounds that it was not legally sound. He found that the seven North London boroughs had failed to fulfill their duty to cooperate with certain surrounding boroughs who currently take waste for landfill from North London.
The Inspector gave the North London Councils the option either to withdraw the submitted NLWP and put right the illegality, or to accept a formal report that the NLWP could not be adopted in its existing form. The boroughs have not yet announced which option they will choose. Watch the NLWA and NLWP websites for further information on this.