The Environmental Services Association, the voice of the UK’s resource and waste management industry today set out a number of recommendations to more closely align the planning system with the strategic objectives of the Circular Economy.
There is significant scope to improve the planning culture within many local authorities to give the industry the flexibility it needs to adapt to the new, sustainable business models shaped by the Circular Economy.
ESA’s new report, Planning for a Circular Economy outlines key aspects of the planning regime which can often frustrate the industry’s efforts towards this aim.
ESA’s Policy Advisor, Stephen Freeland said: “Many local authorities need to let go of the strict control culture that has prevailed in one form or another since the “landfill era” and instead adopt a more responsive approach to planning for waste management which better recognises the variable and dynamic nature of the space in which our industry now operates.
“Few other sectors face the same planning and political obsession about the origin of material or commodities, and where these should be transported to.”
“Our industry increasingly resembles that of any other logistics business with materials moved around as markets dictate.
“Few other sectors face the same planning and political obsession about the origin of material or commodities, and where these should be transported to. To hamstring the resource and waste management industry in such a way will likely hamper investment and progress towards the objectives of the Circular Economy”.
The report states that the Circular Economy presents a number of innovative opportunities to improve UK resource efficiency, with the waste and recycling industry playing a key role in new and more sustainable material supply chains.
It states: “While we are not advocating a complete overhaul of the system, clearly a more responsive planning system is needed to ensure that the economic and environmental benefits of the new Circular Economy are not missed.”
The ESA says the following recommendations would help:
- A more integrated approach to waste and energy policy. Local plans should include robust policies to support the UK’s transition to a largely decarbonised heat sector. In practice, this should allow for sufficient provision (or sites) for energy from waste (EfW) within local plans which maximise the potential for use of heat through combined heat and power. Doing so will maximise heat offtake and therefore improve the environmental benefits of EfW
- Planning authorities should seek to engage developers on draft conditions attached to planning consent prior to submission to planning committee. This would help to firstly identify and then address those conditions which might unreasonably impact on the operational use or commercial viability of waste management development waste
- Aanagement facilities process recyclable material to produce secondary resources for national and global commodity markets. Materials may flow through a number of different facilities across a broad geographical area in order to achieve the desired market specification. Local authorities should therefore desist from seeking to impose catchment boundaries on waste treatment facilities. It is unrealistic to limit material flows to within any given administrative boundary: not only are such conditions unenforceable but such a practice places local recycling facilities at a commercial disadvantage
- A shift in planning culture should aim to help planners shrug off the strict “control regime” of the “landfill era” and instead recognise the transition in the waste and recycling industry. Modern recycling facilities now tend to resemble “mainstream” industrial and logistics operations and should not face any additional operational restrictions through planning consent than other, similar industries
- While every effort should be made to push waste up the waste hierarchy, energy from waste and landfill both have a role to play in realising our Circular Economy objectives and provision should be made accordingly within local plans. Both are compatible with higher rates of recycling as they are simply designed to treat a different part of the waste stream (non-recyclable wastes or residues from recycling processes) while providing a source of low carbon energy
- Sensible development proposals on closed landfill sites which meet wider sustainability and climate change objectives should be supported by local planning authorities
- Policies designed to encourage housing supply should be sympathetic to the requirements of operational waste management development, and sites allocated for waste development.