The Plaid Cymru and Independent groups have joined forces to condemn Caerphilly Council for refusing to work to avoid legal action over controversial plans for a new waste plant at Cwmfelinfach.
Plans for the new waste treatment facility handling up to 100,000 tonnes of waste annually, were approved by the council’s planning committee nearly six years ago. But campaigners said council officers should have asked Hazrem to carry out an environmental impact assessment before the decision was put to the council’s planning committee and, therefore, the permission is unlawful.
Plaid group leader Colin Mann and Independent group leader Kevin Etheridge said the refusal to look at alternatives to a Judicial Review could lead to thousands of pounds in legal costs being run-up unnecessarily.
They hit out after a proposed notice of motion for discussion at next month’s full council was rejected.
The motion stated:
We the undersigned elected members of the authority request that Council undertake a full investigation into the Hazrem planning decision. This investigation should include within its remit any advice given by Planning Officers and advice given to Planning Officers on the procedures, prior to and during the Planning Committee meeting when the application was originally considered. Any relevant information provided to Planning Committee Members prior to the decision (including views of objectors and agents). We request that the investigation also consider any discussions or information provided to residents prior to the submission of the Judicial Review and if information requested by residents was refused the reasons for non-disclosure. This investigation should also detail any potential costs incurred as a result of the legal proceedings and provide a full account of the case law and findings.
We the undersigned elected members appreciate that this matter is currently part of on-going legal proceedings therefore in submitting this notice of motion we accept that the time frame for the investigation should not conflict with any other legal processes however on the conclusion of any legal undertakings in relation to the Judicial Review, or should the information not prejudice the Judicial Review, this investigation should be expedited and the outcome presented in a report to Council for consideration.
It was signed by Councillors Kevin Etheridge, Colin Mann, Mike Davies,Graham Simmonds, Robert Owen and Andrew Farina Childs.
Councillor Colin Mann said: “What a mess this Labour council has got itself into. Its failure to look constructively at a way of finding a solution without legal action deserves to be condemned.
“They have buried their heads in the sand and as a result the council taxpayers of Caerphilly County will pick up unnecessary legal costs. They have clearly not learnt the lesson of the vast legal bills run up during Labour’s senior officers’ pay scandal.
“There was an opportunity to debate this issue in full council, which hasn’t been done so far, but the council has shut that down.”
Councillor Kevin Etheridge said: “Communities and residents’ offer of engagement prior to the judicial review being submitted was rejected by Labour. It was most disappointing for the residents with opposition members ignored.”