Monday, 30 October 2017

Will Borders waste station find favour this time?

DOUG COLLIE on a council dilemma

Just six months after throwing out proposals for a multi-million pound waste transfer station (WTS) at Galashiels Borders councillors will be invited to backtrack and sanction virtually the same scheme when they meet next week.

Members of Scottish Borders Council planning committee turned down an application in April from local authority colleagues for the development of the storage facilities at Easter Langlee amid fears for road safety outlined in objections from local residents.

There were suggestions at the time that councillors were 'playing to the gallery' just a few weeks before municipal elections were held in May.

That decision threw SBC's waste management strategy into complete chaos given the looming deadline for the closure of landfill sites in Scotland. The WTS is required as a matter of urgency so that tens of thousands of tonnes of household refuse can be taken to Easter Langlee before it is transferred by road to treatment facilities elsewhere.

There are even more individual objections (eighteen) to the revised application which will be considered next Monday. But as before, senior planners at SBC are recommending approval even though they concede the serious shortcomings of the C77 road cannot be overcome.

Opponents have the backing of local ward councillor Harry Scott, and a nearby residents' association has also tabled a strong objection.

A 22-page report compiled by planning officer Carlos Clark outlines the pros and cons associated with the siting of the WTS at Easter Langlee.

The report says amenity impacts - according to protesters - include:

*The development will unfortunately prolong use of the site for waste treatment or disposal. Further consideration should be given to protecting the area for residential and other compatible uses. 

*Concerns are raised regarding impacts on existing residential properties, and potential for future houses.

*The development will prolong and may exacerbate noise, dust and smell concerns (including odours during construction); visual impacts, including trees and landscape issues; vehicle noise (including from more HGVs and from reversing vehicles); and air pollution. 

*The content and findings of a Transport Statement produced by the applicants are challenged, including factual accuracy, speed survey findings and proportion of commercial vehicles using the road. The report is considered to be one-sided in favour of the development being approved. 

The report adds: "There is no answer to the fact that the pinch point between Aislinn Cottage and No 2 Easter Langlee Cottages cannot be widened. This is the most dangerous point of a pedestrian’s journey where the road is not wide enough to accommodate a HGV and another vehicle passing each other, visibility is severely restricted, and verges are extremely narrow and overrun by HGVs. The transport statement confirms that a solution cannot be achieved.

 "Another blind bend creates a similar hazard further north. Proposed improvements were previously judged to be inadequate. There is no change in the improvement proposals that can overcome the intrinsic unsuitability of the C77.

The report to councillors also states that all properties flanking the C77 have had vehicles enter their property through boundary fencing, one experiencing this twice. Vehicles have also come off the road and fallen into the valley adjacent the waste site. Photographs demonstrate instances of vehicles involved in accidents, including one showing a Council refuse lorry (though it is unclear if the lorry was involved in the accident).

Despite there being a 30 mph limit here, a traffic survey carried out on behalf of the Council indicated that, on a weekly average, a substantial number (47.1%) exceeded the speed limit, with excessive speeds ranging between 36.3 mph and 49 mph.

People and children (sometimes unsupervised) with or without dogs walk this road and walkers are increasingly using it. Six properties on this stretch have no other means of accessing a bus stop or post-box without walking on this road. The path through the industrial estate is steep, on an angle and has steps. Therefore, the only route for wheelchair users, those with restricted mobility and parents with pushchairs is to use the C77. There is no footway and the grass verge is non-existent.

Locals also warn: " A major accident, with possible fatalities, may occur and the development should be stopped before the inevitable occurs."

But according to Mr Clark: "The provision of the Waste Transfer Station will provide clear community benefit, particularly in allowing closure of the landfill site”.

The Transport Statement states that there would be 6 extra vehicle movements per day of which 5 would be articulated lorries, when compared with the existing traffic for the landfill. This amounts to 88 movements per day in total, of which 14 would be artics., as opposed to 82 and 9 for the landfill site respectively. 

The predicted traffic would be less than that for the consented MBT (Mechanical Biological Treatment) facility. While that consent is an historic approval it is, nonetheless, a consent that is capable of still being implemented without further planning approval and the judgements leading to that permission are valid considerations here. This increase in traffic is not considered to be significant, he writes.

His report concludes: "Ultimately, it must be acknowledged that the development will replace the existing landfill activity and achieve a waste management solution that will have less intensive traffic implications than the consented MBT facility.

"While objectors’ concerns are legitimate and fully acknowledged, there is insufficient evidence to suggest that the WTS would result in road safety impacts that are so materially different to either the existing landfill operations or approved MBT facility such that the C77 would be incapable of safely accommodating its traffic."

The recommendation is for approval with conditions. 

It will be interesting to see whether the reconstituted planning committee sticks with the previous decision or gives the WTS their seal of approval.

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