Introduction

9.6.1Waste has the potential to have an adverse impact on our environment, so the sustainable management of it is essential for the health and wellbeing of society, and our quality of life. Government policy now recognises the strategic importance of managing our waste sustainability. It is now widely accepted that waste should be treated as a resource with a value, with a move away from landfill in favour of more sustainable methods in line with the five step Waste Hierarchy. This is promoted by the EU Waste Framework Directive (WFD), the Regional Development Strategy, and is a core principle of The Northern Ireland Waste Management Strategy. The Waste Hierarchy ranks waste management options according to best environmental outcome taking into consideration the lifecycle of the material. Waste should be managed as far up the five step hierarchy as possible, with waste disposal only being used when no option further up the hierarchy is possible.

Figure 9.2 The Waste Hierarchy

9.6.2The Northern Ireland Waste Management Strategy ‘Delivering Resource Efficiency’ sets out the policy framework for waste management within Northern Ireland. It aims to set a direction towards using waste more efficiently, to make it a key element in developing and promoting a low carbon, circular economy47. The key principles of the WMS are:

  • Waste Hierarchy – indicates the relative priority of the different methods of managing waste and aims to decrease the volume of waste produced.
  • Life Cycle Approach – to take into account the overall impacts that an approach or service will have throughout its whole life, that is, from cradle to grave.
  • Polluter Pays Principles – means that waste generators should pay the costs of providing services to manage their wastes.
  • Proximity Principle – emphasises the need to treat or dispose of waste as close as practicable to the point of generation, then minimise the environmental impact of waste transportation.
  • Integration of Waste Streams – encouraging the development of waste management solutions that encompass all waste.

9.6.3Local authorities in Northern Ireland have combined into three sub-regional waste management groups who work together to take forward the delivery and development of Waste Management Plans (WMPs) and infrastructure, undertake benchmarking exercises and share best practice. Mid and East Antrim Borough Council is currently part of the arc21 Waste Management Group. The arc21 joint WMP currently serves as the Council’s WMP.

9.6.4Mid and East Antrim Borough Council will seek to support sustainable waste management that is aligned to the principles of the Waste Management Strategy and Waste Management Plan. This will permit the Council to promote facilities which increase the amount of recycling and energy recovered from waste, and reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. There are currently no landfill sites within the Borough, and it is anticipated there will not be a need for further landfill sites for household waste in our Borough within the Plan period. There are currently five household recycling centres within our Borough, as well as a privately owned Waste Transfer Station and Depot operated under a long term lease. Planning can contribute to the timely provision of an integrated network of waste facilities which are essential to support the development of new homes, economic growth and the creation of sustainable communities. It will also help Council meet the NI Executive’s PfG target of recycling 50% by 2020 and the updated EU target48 of recycling 65% by 2030. The latest recycling figure of 57.05% in 2018 shows our Council is performing well in this regard, with an increase of 1.5% from the previous year.

9.6.5The SPPS highlights that furthering sustainable development means ensuring the planning system plays its part in supporting the NI Executive and wider government policy and strategies in efforts to address any existing or potential barriers to sustainable development. The SPPS states sustainable waste management is essential for the health and wellbeing of society, and our quality of life. It also contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, both by reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill and by providing a source of heat and power through thermal treatment of residual waste. The promoting of development of waste management and recycling facilities in appropriate locations; ensuring any detrimental effects are avoided or minimised; and securing appropriate restoration and after-use of waste management sites are all regional strategic objectives of the SPPS.

Policy Aims

9.6.6The LDP strategic approach to waste management is set out in our policy aims below. These policy aims fully embrace the above-mentioned regional strategic objectives and guidelines for LDPs set out in the SPPS.

  • To facilitate the development of new waste management facilities in appropriate locations;
  • To minimise the environmental impact of waste management facilities;
  • Control development in proximity to existing waste management or WwTW facilities; and
  • To facilitate proposals intended to improve land quality.

Implementation

9.6.7The policy aims will be delivered primarily through the strategic policies set out in the remainder of this section. The Local Policies Plan may also identify specific industrial areas or sites which could accommodate a waste management facility.

Policy WMT1 Environmental Impact of a Waste Management Facility

A proposal for a new or expanded waste management facility will be permitted where there is no unacceptable adverse impact on the environment. Where there is adverse impact(s), a proposal can only be approved if it can be demonstrated, to the satisfaction of the Council, that the impact can be effectively mitigated through appropriate measures.

Planning permission will be granted where it can be demonstrated that the proposal meets the General Policy and accords with other provisions of the LDP. In addition, applicants will be required to demonstrate that all of the following criteria relating specifically to waste management development are met:

  1. The visual impact of the proposal, including the final landform of landfilling or land raising operations, is acceptable in the landscape and will not have an unacceptable visual impact on seascape or any area designated for its landscape quality;
  2. Wherever practicable, the waste management facility is located in reasonable proximity to where the waste arises;
  3. Wherever practicable, the use of alternative transport modes for the movement of waste materials, in particular, rail and water, has been considered;
  4. The types of waste to be deposited or treated and the proposed method of disposal or treatment will not pose a serious environmental pollution risk to air, water or soil resources that cannot be prevented or appropriately controlled by mitigating measures;
  5. In the case of waste disposal operations, the proposal includes suitable, detailed and practical restoration and aftercare proposals for the site.

Justification and Amplification

9.6.8The key aim of the Northern Ireland Waste Management Strategy (WMS) and this policy is to achieve sustainable waste management. Through the strong focus on minimising harmful environmental impacts, this policy will encourage all waste management facilities to be developed to the highest standards and in appropriate locations. The development of modern facilities should secure environmental benefits by allowing for more sustainable waste management practices, having regard to the proximity principle, and enabling a shift towards a circular economy where no waste or pollution is produced, and fewer resources and energy are used (a circular economy keeps waste materials at their highest use and value within the waste hierarchy).

9.6.9In considering proposals for new, or extensions to existing, waste management facilities the Council will ensure adequate protection and conservation of the environment, whilst providing for the waste needs of the Borough.

Environmental information

9.6.10Sufficient information should be submitted with planning applications for a waste management facility to enable the Council and relevant expert consultees to make an informed assessment of the potential environmental impact, taking account of the nature, scale and location of the proposal. Where appropriate the Council will use its powers contained in the Planning (General Development Procedure) Order 2015 to request applicants to supply such additional information as is considered necessary to allow proper determination of planning applications.

9.6.11In assessing the potential impact of proposals for new, or extensions to existing, waste management facilities the following must be considered:

  • Health considerations
  • Compatibility with adjacent development
  • Visual intrusion and impact on the landscape or seascape
  • Transport, traffic and access
  • Nature conservation and Historic Environment
  • Environmental pollution (includes noise; dust and airborne pollution; litter; vermin and birds; land instability; hours of operation; and duration of operations)
  • Protection of surface and groundwater, and any environmental pollution risk to water
  • Land Contamination
  • Flooding from rivers
  • Reinstatement of the site

Applicants will be required to demonstrate that they have taken account of the above issues and bring forward proposals to mitigate potential adverse effects conceivably through the use of Section 76 agreements.

Environmental impact assessment

9.6.12Certain waste management projects fall within the scope of the Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015. Under the regulations planning permission cannot be granted for EIA development unless environmental information, adequate for the particular scheme, has been provided and considered. In such cases a formal environmental statement will be required. EIA is a method of ensuring that the likely effects of new development on the environment are taken into account as part of the consideration of planning applications. Waste disposal installations for the incineration, chemical treatment, or landfill of hazardous waste require an EIA in every case. Certain other waste management projects, which fall within the scope of the EIA regulations, may require an assessment where the Council considers that the development will have a significant environmental effect (see DCAN 10 (Revised) Environmental Impact Assessment49).

Precautionary principle

9.6.13The development of waste management facilities, particularly waste disposal at the lowest level of the waste hierarchy, carries with it the potential for significant risk of harm to the environment. This may also extend in some instances to potentially serious impacts on the health and wellbeing of people. Because of these risks and the uncertainty that may arise in regard to such impacts, the Council will be guided by the precautionary principle that, where there are significant risks of damage to the environment, its protection will generally be paramount, unless there are imperative reasons of overriding public interest.

Policy WMT2 Waste Collection and Treatment Facilities

A proposal for the development of a waste collection or treatment facility will be permitted where it meets the General Policy and accords with other provisions of the LDP. In addition, the applicant will be required to demonstrate that there is an identified need50 for the facility and that one or more of the following locational criteria are met:

  1. Is located within an industrial or port area of a character appropriate to the development;
  2. Is suitably located within an active or worked out hard rock quarry;
  3. Is on, or adjacent to, the site of an existing or former waste management facility including a landfill site;
  4. Brings previously developed, derelict or contaminated land back into productive use or makes use of existing or redundant buildings;
  5. In the case of a civic amenity facility, is conveniently located in terms of access to service a neighbourhood or settlement whilst avoiding unacceptable adverse impact on the character, environmental quality and amenities of the local area; or
  6. Is suitably located in a rural area and involves the reuse of existing buildings or is on land within or adjacent to existing non-residential building groups. Alternatively where it is demonstrated that new buildings/plant are needed these must have an acceptable visual and environmental impact.

In addition, the following operational criteria must also be met:

  1. In the case of a regional scale waste facility, its location relates closely to and benefits from easy access to key transport corridors and, where practicable makes use of the alternative transport modes of rail and water;
  2. Proposals involving the sorting and processing of waste, are carried out within a purpose built or appropriately modified existing building, unless it can be demonstrated that part or all of the proposed operation can only be carried out in the open;
  3. The built development associated with the proposed methods of handling, storage, treatment and processing of waste is appropriate to the nature and hazards of the waste(s) concerned;
  4. Proposals for the incineration of waste and other thermal processes, shall incorporate measures to maximise energy recovery both in the form of heat and electricity, taking account of prevailing technology, economics and characteristics of the waste stream involved; and
  5. It will not result in an unacceptable adverse environmental impact that cannot be prevented or appropriately controlled by mitigating measures (see Policy WMT1 Environmental Impact of a Waste Management Facility).

Justification and Amplification

9.6.14This policy seeks to support proposals for the development of a waste collection and treatment facility, subject to the need for such being identified in the Waste Management Strategy (WMS) and the Council’s Waste Management Plan (currently arc21 WMP until 2020). In the case of a Waste Water Treatment Works (WwTW) the need must be demonstrated to the satisfaction of the Council in consultation with NI Water.

9.6.15Proposals will also be required to meet one or more of the locational criteria as well as other criteria covering access and transport modes, suitability of buildings and facilities, energy recovery, and environmental impact.

9.6.16For the purpose of this policy, waste treatment projects include waste separation, recycling, transfer, composting, the treatment and transfer of special waste, the thermal treatment of waste including incineration and relatively new techniques such as pyrolysis, gasification, and fluidised bed combustion and other energy recovery facilities such as anaerobic digestion. Proposals for the development of waste water treatment works (including extensions to existing facilities) and proposals for the recycling of construction and demolition waste are also to be considered under this policy.

9.6.17As a consequence this policy provides criteria for the determination of planning applications for civic amenity sites, waste transfer stations, the various types of recycling facilities, scrap-yards, multi-stream separation and material recovery facilities, composting facilities, waste water treatment works, incineration and other thermal treatment and energy recovery facilities. All planning applications for waste collection and treatment facilities will also be assessed against Policy WMT1 Environmental Impact of a Waste Management Facility, and the principles of sustainable waste management.

9.6.18Meeting the WMS targets will require a significant shift away from landfill to enable a move towards a circular economy and a realisation of the value of waste as a resource. Waste treatment facilities reuse, recycle and recover waste materials and can significantly reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. They can also have benefits in relation to the co-location or provision of integrated facilities close to waste arisings, close to where waste is re-used, or close to other waste treatment facilities. Applicants must therefore demonstrate that the proposal is consistent with the WMS and the Council’s WMP. Applicants will also have to obtain a relevant waste management authorisation from NIEA i.e. a waste management licence, waste exemption, discharge consent, waste permit etc.

Policy WMT3 Waste Disposal Sites

A proposal for the development of landfill or land raising facilities for the disposal of waste will be permitted where it meets the General Policy and accords with other provisions of the LDP. In addition, applicants will be required to demonstrate that all the following criteria are met:

  1. There is a need for the facility as established through the WMS and the Council’s WMP;
  2. No feasible option for the management of waste at a higher level in the waste hierarchy is possible; and
  3. The proposed facility complies with all of the following criteria:
    1. It will not result in an unacceptable adverse environmental impact that cannot be prevented or appropriately controlled by mitigating measures (see Policy WMT1 Environmental Impact of a Waste Management Facility);
    2. Significant mineral reserves are not sterilised;
    3. It is suitably located within an active or worked out hard rock quarry, in a void left by mineral extraction, or it returns land that is despoiled, derelict or contaminated back into productive use;
    4. In the case of a regional scale landfill or land raising site, its location closely relates to and allows for easy access to key transport corridors and, where practicable make use of the alternative transport modes of rail and water; and
    5. Detailed measures are included for the appropriate restoration and aftercare of sites that will help to enhance biodiversity.

Justification and Amplification

9.6.19This policy applies to all proposals for the disposal of household, industrial and commercial waste. It seeks to ensure that the need for any landfill or land raising facilities for the disposal of waste is established through the WMS and the Council’s WMP and that such facilities will not have an unacceptable environmental impact, have appropriate restoration measures, are well located, and meet normal planning requirements. Importantly, applicants must also clearly demonstrate that no alternative option exists for the more sustainable management of waste at a higher level in the waste hierarchy. Applicants will also have to obtain appropriate waste management authorisation from NIEA.

9.6.20Landfilling involves the disposal of waste into void spaces often left as a result of mineral extraction. Land raising is the disposal of waste by depositing on land thereby raising its level. The disposal of municipal waste through either method is positioned at the bottom of the waste hierarchy and is invariably the least sustainable waste management option. Particular issues associated with these methods include the risk of the release of methane gas into the air and adjoining ground or leachate into the soil, groundwater and surface water. Compliance with the siting, engineering and operational requirements of the EU Landfill Directive is an essential pre-requisite and strict controls will be applied under waste management licensing and IPPC permitting51.

9.6.21Waste disposal proposals will be expected to include a statement identifying the waste implications of the development, measures taken to minimise and manage the waste generated, a critical analysis of the alternative methods of treatment for the particular waste material and its potential for recycling, composting or energy recovery. To comply with the Landfill Directive, the absolute quantities of waste going to landfill must reduce. The WMS therefore envisages a progressive reduction and consolidation of landfill capacity and overall number of landfill sites.

Environmental Impact

9.6.22Planning permission will be refused where any proposal would have an unacceptable impact on the environment. All planning applications for waste disposal will also be assessed against Policy WMT1 Environmental Impact of a Waste Management Facility and the principles of sustainable waste management. Where appropriate, planning conditions may be required to mitigate or compensate for potential environmental impacts.

9.6.23It is essential that all waste disposal facilities that contain putrescible waste are well designed and operated. Applications for municipal waste landfill and land raising operations must be accompanied by details of leachate and land fill gas treatment. The Landfill Directive bans the co-disposal of inert, hazardous and non-hazardous waste and all waste going to landfill must be pre-treated. In addition, certain wastes are banned from land filling as a disposal method altogether.

Landfilling

9.6.24Waste disposal, through landfilling can sometimes be suitably located within a hard rock quarry or where the impact of the operations will not have a detrimental effect on residential amenity or the environment. It is important that such proposals do not sterilise mineral reserves considered to be of particular value to the economy. Other sites may be considered where it can be demonstrated that the waste disposal proposal accompanied by a subsequent restoration plan can deliver environmental benefit, for example, that arising through the productive reuse of despoiled, derelict or contaminated land.

Land Raising

9.6.25Land raising, in that it creates a new landform, has the potential to significantly impact on the landscape and environmental heritage assets. As a result, careful consideration will be given to the proposed landform and scale of land raising activities to ensure that these can satisfactorily be assimilated into the surrounding landscape.

Restoration

9.6.26Careful restoration and aftercare is essential to prepare landfill or land raising sites for a use which is compatible with the surrounding area. Proposals should be detailed, comprehensive, practical and achievable and they should help promote or enhance local biodiversity. All applications for landfill and land raising operations must be accompanied by drawings illustrating typical cross-sections through the site and indicating depth of fill, capping details, final restoration contours, planting and other relevant details.

Policy WMT4 Development in the vicinity of a Waste Management Facility

A proposal involving the development of land in the vicinity of an existing or approved waste management facility or waste water treatment works (WwTWs), will be permitted where all the following criteria are met:

  1. It will not prejudice or unduly restrict activities permitted to be carried out within such facilities;
  2. The proximity to waste management facilities (or WwTWs) will not give rise to unacceptable adverse impacts in terms of people, transportation, or the environment.

Justification and Amplification

9.6.27Waste management facilities carry out an important function in the treatment and disposal of waste and will be approved in appropriate locations. However, such facilities often undertake complex operations that can impact adversely on residential amenity and the environment. While the standards of facilities are continually improving there may still be potential for some undesirable impacts at individual sites, for example, in relation to odour, windblown litter or birds.

9.6.28This policy seeks to ensure that such potential adverse impacts will be a material consideration in the determination of planning applications for development in proximity to existing or approved waste management or WwTW facilities. Consideration will therefore need to be given to the sensitivity of development proposed in the vicinity of these facilities. Particularly sensitive receptors in this context are residential development or areas of public use such as for recreation or amenity space.

9.6.29These considerations are particularly important in relation to landfill sites as the EU Landfill Directive requires some landfill sites or areas within landfill sites to be dedicated specifically to the deposit of special or hazardous waste. The Hazardous Waste Directive will extend the list of hazardous substances that should not be landfilled. As a result new waste treatment facilities will be needed to treat hazardous waste.

9.6.30In relation to development proposed in the vicinity of WwTWs the potential loss of amenity arising from odour will be a particularly important factor in the determination of planning applications. Applications will be assessed through taking account of the circumstances prevailing at particular locations. Relevant considerations will include: the nature and capacity of the treatment works; local topography; prevailing wind direction; screening and disposition of existing development; the nature of the proposed development; the precise position of actual odour sources within the boundaries of the works and advice on relevant environmental health matters.

Policy WMT5 Land Improvement

A proposal for the disposal of inert waste by its deposition on land will be permitted where it meets the General Policy and accords with other provisions of the LDP. In addition, the applicant will be required to demonstrate that it will result in land improvement and all the following criteria are met:

  1. It will not result in an unacceptable adverse environmental impact that cannot be prevented or appropriately controlled by mitigating measures (see Policy WMT1 Environmental Impact of a Waste Management Facility);
  2. There is a local need for the development;
  3. Only the minimum quantity of fill necessary to achieve the proposed improvement shall be deposited; and
  4. Detailed measures are included and secured for the appropriate restoration and aftercare of sites that will help to enhance biodiversity.

Justification and Amplification

9.6.31For the purposes of this policy, inert waste is defined as waste material that does not undergo any significant physical, chemical or biological transformations when deposited. This policy seeks to ensure that proposals for the disposal of inert waste by deposition on farmland and elsewhere results in land improvement and in so doing so minimises environmental impact, meets a demonstrated need, and leads to appropriate restoration. Such proposals are often inappropriate in terms of sustainable development in that the waste involved is capable of being moved up the waste hierarchy and recycled or reused. However the usual motive for such development is to dispose of waste in the cheapest way possible and avoid payment of landfill tax, rather than to improve agricultural land quality or facilitate other necessary development.

9.6.32Nevertheless, the deposition of inert waste on agricultural or other land can result in an improvement in land quality in certain circumstances, for example where steep gradients are reduced and the land re-graded with an adequate surface layer of topsoil. Deposition of inert waste can also facilitate land reclamation for necessary development. It is recognised, however, that care needs to be taken to ensure that such schemes do not adversely affect landscape quality, nature conservation or heritage interests. Vacant land or land of low agricultural value often provides important habitats for flora and fauna.

9.6.33Where it is demonstrated that there is a local need for the deposition of inert waste, it will also be necessary to consider the full range of potential environmental impacts. Therefore, all planning applications for land improvement will also be assessed against Policy WMT1 Environmental Impact of a Waste Management Facility, and the principles of sustainable waste management.

9.6.34Planning permission will be refused where a proposal would have an unacceptable impact on the environment. Where appropriate, conditions will be attached to planning permissions to minimise or compensate for their impact on wildlife or physical features. In some cases it will be necessary to add informatives to an approval informing the applicant of their obligations under the Wildlife Order. Applicants will also have to obtain a relevant waste management authorisation from NIEA i.e. a waste management licence or waste exemption.

9.6.35The main purpose of this policy is to facilitate proposals intended to improve land quality rather than the disposal of waste. In this regard the quantity of waste to be deposited should be the minimum required to achieve the proposed improvement, and generally up to 2 metres maximum, unless in exceptional circumstances. Where this is not the case the Council will consider the proposal under Policy WMT3 Waste Disposal Sites. Applicants should also familiar themselves with the circumstances when agricultural improvement does not require express planning permission.

  • 47 - A circular economy is an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life.
  • 48 - EU Circular Economy Package 2018 251
  • 49Department for the Environment Planning Policy Division, September 2012
  • 50 - There is a need for the facility as established through the Waste Management Strategy (WMS) and the relevant Waste Management Plan (WMP). In the case of Waste Water Treatment Works (WwTWs), the need must be demonstrated to the satisfaction of the Council in consultation with NI Water.
  • 51 - Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) - designed to protect the environment through the prevention of or reduction in pollution of air, water and land caused by emissions from industrial installations. Under the EU Directive, specified waste management activities will require permits.

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