Welbeck Landfill Site: Tip operator accused of ‘moving the goalposts’ over plans to dump waste for two more years

A landfill site operator has been accused of ‘moving the goalposts’ over plans to continue dumping waste for two more years.

Senior council leaders have said there is a “strong moral case” to stop tipping at Welbeck, in Wakefield, after more than a quarter of a century. Welbeck has been in operation since 1998 amid claims of bad smells, harm to the land and pollution of the River Calder.

The site is due to be transformed into a country park after residents and protesters were given assurances it would finally close in December 2023. FCC Environment, also known as Welbeck Waste Management Ltd (WWML), has applied to Wakefield Council to continue dumping materials for a further two years.

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The operator says it needs more time due to a shortage of materials going to landfill. Senior councillors have urged the local authority’s planning and highways committee to reject the proposal.

The operators of Welbeck landfill site, in Wakefield, have applied to continue to dump waste at the site for two more years.The operators of Welbeck landfill site, in Wakefield, have applied to continue to dump waste at the site for two more years.
The operators of Welbeck landfill site, in Wakefield, have applied to continue to dump waste at the site for two more years.

Jack Hemingway, the council’s deputy leader with responsibility for the environment, and Matthew Morley, cabinet member for planning and highways, have issued a joint letter, along with fellow Stanley and Outwood East ward member Lynn Masterman.

They said: “Now is the time to cease tipping and it is in the public interest to see the promised restoration of this much-needed green space.”

They claim the application “flies in the face” of previous commitments to close the site.

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The councillors said: “The site operator has repeatedly failed to foresee and adjust to changes in the waste management sector, including legislative changes and increased rates of recycling which have led to falling waste levels entering landfill.

"Residents should not have to pay the consequences of this. There is absolutely nothing to prevent the site operator from returning in two years’ time, making similar excuses and asking for yet another extension.”

“We are concerned that this has become a cycle where the operator does not fully explore alternatives and seeks only the most commercially profitable route – to extend as long as possible by continually moving the goalposts.

“We believe there are good sound planning reasons and a very strong moral case for why this landfill extension request should be rejected.”

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The councillors also say the continued presence of the tip could have a negative impact on economic investment at the nearby City Fields development, were thousands of new homes are being built.

The objection also refers to “frequent reports of potential breaches” to the Environment Agency (EA). It says two reports were made to the EA in March this year of pollutants coming from the site.

The document adds: “There were reports as recently as summer 2023 of fly infestations investigated by authorities.”

Residents Against Toxic Scheme (RATS), the campaign group that has objected to the landfill site throughout its lifetime, Normanton Town Council and 25 others have also objected.

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Council officers have recommended the application for approval, describing it as a “minor extension of time, plus minor landfill design modifications.”

A report says: “The proposals can be implemented in an environmentally acceptable way. Planning conditions can be imposed to ensure that operations do not cause harm to the living conditions of the local residents.

“The objections referred to as moral grounds carries no weight in the decision-making process.”

Councillors will consider the application at a meeting on Thursday, November 16.