by EWAN LAMB
A replacement strategy for dealing with tens of thousands of tonnes of domestic rubbish generated by households in the Scottish Borders is encountering resistance at the planning stage with objectors claiming statistics have been changed to ensure approval for the project.
Local residents living close to the site of the proposed £6 million waste transfer station at Easter Langlee on the outskirts of Galashiels say they were told at a public meeting last autumn the number of trips to and from the station by articulated lorries would double or even treble once the facility was up and running.
But now a revised transport report prepared by consultants commissioned by Scottish Borders Council has concluded: "There are no transport related issues preventing the award of planning consent".
The report claims the overall daily increase in traffic will be 'just three vehicles' of which two will be articulated lorries, giving rise to an additional six vehicle trips per day.
Nevertheless it means the C class road leading to and from the tip will have to cope with 27,250 vehicle loads per annum (105 per day) generating 54,500 vehicle movements annually or 210 each day.
According to one objector: "Having read the revised transport statement I could not believe my eyes. This report is very much one-sided to enable planning permission to be granted".
A second objector comments: "In our opinion the revised transport statement is painting a picture of how everything is rosy on the C77 road. We feel this is only in order that the new centre gains planning permission. No consideration has been given as to how a large volume of artics will impact on us as residents."
Scotland's environmental watchdog SEPA has also expressed concerns about several aspects of the planning application for the transfer station which has, of course, been submitted to the council planning authority by one of its own departments.
A previous attempt by Borders councillors to solve the region's waste disposal issues collapsed in disarray two years ago at a cost to local taxpayers of at least £2.4 million. The intention was to construct a £21 million disposal centre at Easter Langlee which is currently used as an environmentally unfriendly landfill site.
But following a disastrous four-year liaison with waste treatment "experts" New Earth Solutions and offshore investment fund New Earth Recycling & Renewables [Infrastructure] PLC the entire venture based on a £80 million contract turned out to be a costly shambles. The facility was never started and the contract was torn up in 2015.
Now all of the Borders' waste will have to be carted out of the area by road to be treated in other local government territories. The landfill site is due to close by 2018 at the latest.
SEPA [Scottish Environment Protection Agency] has lodged a formal objection to the council's application despite several preliminary meetings aimed at resolving planning issues.
The opposition by SEPA to the application as it stands is based on grounds of lack of information. The agency has offered to review its stance if several issues are addressed.
They have advised the applicants to provide additional information to demonstrate that the site is free of flood risk and that developing this site, as proposed, will not lead to increased flood risk elsewhere.
SEPA concedes many of the issues discussed at pre-meetings have been incorporated in the application. However, they add: "The proposed drainage arrangements are not in line either with discussions between the applicants and SEPA or acceptable practice.
"Foul effluent should not be discharged into the SUDs system. Foul effluent should be taken directly to a soakaway system via a solid pipe". SUDs is an abbreviation for Sustainable Drainage System which is designed to reduce the impact of new and existing developments.
SEPA's submission also calls into questions some of the content of the transport report which appears to have miscalculated the distance from the proposed waste station to the nearest residential properties.
"We note in the transport report that the distances from Coopersknowe Crescent and Melrose Gait are given as 500 metres and 800 metres respectively. We believe that this is incorrect and the distances are actually 310 metres and 250 metres respectively". A sizeable disparity, it would seem.
Commenting on other issues, SEPA point out: "The noise assessment does not appear to have taken into account the noise from reversing lorries (i.e. reversing beepers). The noise assessment must be revised to take this into account.
"We consider the odour assessment should focus on the abatement and reduction of odour emissions rather than focus on modelling which is very uncertain due to its subjective nature. We have seen cases where odour modelling has predicted no odour nuisance where, in reality, there has been an odour nuisance".