Oxfordshire County Council’s decision to approve an application to fill a lake with waste and ash slurry was not flawed.
The Ombudsman says “Members were appropriately informed”, and adds that they “… applied conditions to protect the amenity of residents.” He finds no maladministration by the Council.
‘Mrs Roe’ (not her real name for legal reasons) complained about the Council’s approval of a planning application by a power station company, ‘Hind Plc’ (not its real name), to fill a lake near her home with ash slurry and waste from burnt coal. Mrs Roe was the nearest resident and considered she would be affected in a number of ways including noise, dust, contamination, loss of well water, and loss of wildlife.
The investigation showed that pre-application discussions led Hind Plc to produce an Environmental Statement as part of its subsequent application. This required details of, among other things, alternatives to using the lake as a waste site. The Council supplemented this information with its own enquiries for the benefit of the Members of the Planning Committee. The Council’s policy required Hind Plc to show an overriding need to fill the lake, which had become inhabited by wildlife.
Substantial evidence was provided to the Planning Committee by the applicant and objectors. Members approved the application, accepting there was overriding need. The investigation showed that the conditions Members applied to protect the amenity of residents appropriately considered Mrs Roe’s interest.
Shortly after the decision to approve the filling of the lake but while legal agreements were being finalised, a potential alternative site, ‘Peachey Village’, applied to extend its waste licence as it had spare capacity. The Council appropriately considered whether the decision notice for the lake should be withheld, but concluded that it should not. The Council subsequently granted the extension to Peachey Village, treating the application by Peachey Village on its own merits.
Hind Plc delayed implementing the filling of the lake. Objectors sought other legal means to prevent the implementation. In December 2008 Hind Plc and Peachey Village announced that Peachey Village would provide an alternative site for the ash slurry. Hind Plc announced it would agree a scheme with the community to take account of the wishes of local people and the needs of the area’s ecology.