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Members of the Lower Sirhowy Valley Residents’ Group protesting in Risca

An activist’s attempt to subject the council to a judicial review of the building permit granted to a controversial waste treatment plant will be determined next month.

Campaigners argue that the Caerphilly County City Council’s decision to grant Hazrem a building permit to build a waste treatment facility in Cwmfelinfach in 2015 was illegal.

What is judicial review?

Judicial review is a type of court proceeding in which a judge reviews the legality of a decision or action taken by a public body.

In other words, judicial reviews question how a decision was made, rather than the rights and harms of the conclusion reached.

He doesn’t really care about the conclusions of this process and their ‘fix’, as long as the right procedures have been followed. The court will not override what it thinks is the “correct” decision.

This may mean that the public body will be able to make the same decision again, provided it does so legally.

Source: https://www.judiciary.uk/you-and-the-judiciary/judicial-review/

No environmental impact assessment (EIA) was carried out before the building permit was approved nearly six years ago – something activists are contesting in court.

David Platt, a member of the Lower Sirhowy Valley Residents Group, said Caerphilly Watcher that a hearing date has been set for September, which will see his lawyer face off against counsel for the board and the owners of the Hywel NMP site.

If Dr. Platt succeeds, the judge will authorize a judicial review.

Dr Platt said: “Consent for planning should not have been given until after an EIA has been completed.

“At the moment, we don’t know if the plant is safe because no EIA has been carried out.

“We want the judge to rescind the original planning consent. Hywel NMP could then reapply for a building permit, but there should be an EIA. It would proceed as a whole new app.

“We’re not saying they can’t build it, we’re saying they can’t build it without an EIA.”

A council spokesperson previously said: “Despite some of the claims being made in the community, it is important to note that at present Hazrem’s application has a legal building permit.

“It will be for the court to decide whether the council acted correctly in granting the building permit in 2015.

“We urge residents to be patient and allow due process in this matter. “


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The waste factory

The plans for the new waste treatment facility on the Nine Mile Point industrial area were approved by the council planning committee in December 2015.

Hazrem Environmental Ltd, the company behind the waste treatment plant, previously said that up to 100,000 tonnes of waste would be processed annually at the site, including sorting and segregation of waste for the recycling and fuel production.

Emissions from the combustion of natural gas used in an on-site dryer would include nitrogen dioxide.

There are concerns that a weather phenomenon known as temperature inversion could pose a risk to public health.

Temperature inversion occurs when cold air is trapped by the warm air above, preventing clouds, haze, or pollution from escaping from an area, such as the Sirhowy Valley.

Campaigners argued that council agents should have asked Hazrem to perform an environmental impact assessment before the decision was submitted to the council’s planning committee.

By failing to do so, council agents made “any subsequent planning agreement illegal,” the Lower Sirhowy Valley Residents Group said.

Earlier this year, the site of the proposed waste treatment plant was sold by Hazrem to its managers, who in turn sold it to Hywel NMP.

Hywel NMP was established in January this year and is backed by private equity firm Foresight Group, based in Shard, London.

The story so far

December 9, 2015 – Hazrem’s plan to build a waste treatment facility in the Nine Mile Point industrial area is approved by the council planning committee.

Activists against the plans organize a demonstration outside the council offices in Tredomen.

Activists protesting outside council offices in Tredomen in December 2015

july 2016 – Campaigners submit around 700 formal complaint letters to Natural Resources Wales (NRW) over the plans

September 2016 – NRW says it is consulting further with Public Health Wales regarding Hazrem’s request.

September 2016 – Dr Gillian Richardson, who was then executive director of public health at Aneurin Bevan University Board of Health (ABUHB), wrote to NRW, warning that emissions from the plant could affect the health of local residents, citing a temperature inversion in the valley.

january 2017 – NRW rejects an application for an environmental permit for the waste treatment plant, citing a potential “negative impact on the health of people living in the region”.

The move is hailed by MP Chris Evans and MP Rhianon Passmore, as well as Ynysddu advisers at the time – Jan Jones and Philippa Marsden, who is now head of the council.

august 2017 – NRW reconsiders its decision to reject the application for an environmental permit, following an appeal from Hazrem.

NRW said he would not contest the appeal, saying Hazrem included “additional technical information” in the appeal, which caused NRW to change its position.

Rhianon Passmore MS criticizes NRW and pledges to continue fighting the plans.

September 2017 – The Lower Sirhowy Valley Residents Group is starting to seek £ 3,000 to cover legal costs as it aims to continue its opposition to the plans. The group launches a formal objection against Hazrem’s appeal for authorization to build the waste treatment plant. A protest takes place on the Senedd Steps in Cardiff Bay.

October 2017 – A two-day public inquiry is organized at the Blackwood Rugby Club. A letter from Hollywood actor Michael Sheen is read during the investigation, describing the situation as “particularly alarming”.

Roger Tunstall, representing NRW, said the body had “found no grounds to defend the initial refusal” after a “full and thorough examination of the appeal”.

Activists from the Lower Sirhowy Valley Residents Group voice their opposition to proposals for a waste treatment plant at the Blackwood Rugby Club, where an investigation is underway
Activists from the Lower Sirhowy Valley Residents Group voice their opposition to proposals for a waste treatment plant at the Blackwood Rugby Club, where an investigation is underway

december 2017 – The wastewater treatment plant receives the green light from the Urban Planning Inspectorate. A report from the Planning Inspectorate said NRW based its decision on “worst-case” figures.

Chris Evans MP and Rhianon Passmore MS say the community has been “totally ignored” by the decision.

February 2018 – Residents organize a torchlight protest march at Nine Mile Point to continue the campaign against the waste treatment plant. Participants include MP Chris Evans, Cllr Philippa Marsden and former MP for Islwyn Don Touhig.

Sophie Howe, Commissioner for Future Generations for Wales, writes to NRW asking them to demonstrate how the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act is enforced during the environmental clearance process.

OBJECTION: Lord Touhig addresses the residents during the march.  Photo by Cllr Philippa Marsden
Former Islwyn MP Don Touhig addresses torchlight protest in February 2018

August 2018 – MP Chris Evans calls for a review of NRW following its management of the Hazrem environmental permit. He says NRW has “disappointed my constituents on several occasions”.

december 2020 – The group of residents submits an access to information request to council. After receiving a response, Dr David Platt of the residents’ group said: “We began to suspect that a mistake had been made by the planning officers in 2015”.

February 2021 – A group of residents wrote to council suggesting three ways to reverse the decision to grant a building permit to the waste treatment plant. Included is the suggestion that the council submit to judicial review – which would avoid having to pay Hasrem compensation if the decision was overturned.

March 2021 – The council responds to the letter from the residents’ group, saying they are seeking their own legal advice – and the resident group may have to wait several months for a response.

Dr David Platt is preparing himself to bring the council to judicial review, amid concerns that the council is “dragging its feet” on the matter.

May 2021 – The Council’s Plaid Cymru and Independent groups call for clarity from the council on the situation, while activists protest in Risca.

August 2021 – Dr David Platt’s application for judicial review is dismissed by a judge, but Dr Platt chooses to renew the case, with a hearing date set for September to determine whether or not the council is subject to judicial review.

Additional reports from the Local Democracy Information Service


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Group of residents of the Lower Sirhowy Valley

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Philippa marsden


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