Controversial 30m high hazardous waste towers get green light in Liverpool

"I thought Liverpool was a forward looking city but it’s clear we’re going back to the dark days," says campaigner.
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There was anger today after hugely controversial plans to expand a hazardous waste site in Garston, Liverpool, got the go ahead.

Proposals by Veolia UK to install two new 30m high towers for the management of hazardous waste at its industrial site on Blackburne Street were approved at the second time of asking by members of Liverpool Council’s planning committee.

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The location has operated as a lower-tier control of major accident hazards (COMAH) plant since 2000 and the two towers will expand its capacity by a further 28,000 tonnes.

The day started with a protest at the site from concerned local residents as members of the planning committee visited the Garston site. The protesters held signs aloft with messages such as “Community Homes Not Chemical Zones” and “The only solution is less pollution” emblazoned on them.

The Garston plant currently operates 24/7 with a capacity to process 42,000 tonnes of hazardous solvent waste per year. Of this, 32,000 is dealt with by way of fractional distillation towers. Veolia UK wants to add a further two of these towers and associated access platforms.

During the first hearing on the proposals, planning committee members felt they did not have enough information to make a decision on the plans and deferred a final call ahead of today’s crucial site visit. 

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The case for: At the committee meeting at the town hall, Nicola Henshaw, managing director, hazardous waste, Veolia UK, said the development represented a “significant investment” of £72m and said no objections had been received from relevant bodies. James Cook, Veolia head of planning, said the site is a long established industrial area and “some distance” from residential properties.

He added how the site makes a “valuable contribution” to waste management across the UK and has been an “established waste management site” for more than 30 years. In a bid to quash concerns that the firm doesn’t care about the local community, Ms Henshaw said Veolia had invested £1.4m in 27 projects across Liverpool between 2018 and 2023.

The Veolia UK hazardous waste site in Garston. Image: Google Street ViewThe Veolia UK hazardous waste site in Garston. Image: Google Street View
The Veolia UK hazardous waste site in Garston. Image: Google Street View

The case against: Queries were lodged by opponents of the scheme and members of the planning committee. Cllr Billy Lake said: “I would be concerned if I lived in any proximity to the plant. If there was an accident there and there’s noxious fumes, I’d want to know if my house was in the direction of them. It was very important when Chernobyl blew.”

Daniel Samson described the expansion of the site as “patently inappropriate” and argued it would increase the level of danger to communities around Garston. Mr Samson said it would likely give a rise to pollution and increased HGV traffic would lead to more potholes which the council and taxpayers would be left with the bill for.

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Campaigner and local resident Gary Woollam said he felt councillors had not had the right information to make a decision on the scheme and referred back to Cllr Lake’s comment about safety. He said: “If there’s an accident there, we won’t burn, we’ll suffocate. They’re hoping the wind blows the right way.”

Garston councillor Sam Gorst accused Veolia of showing the community “contempt” and not being willing to engage over the plans. Despite concerns being raised over noise, air quality and water discharge by residents and campaigners.

Paul Farrell, who manages Liverpool Council’s environmental protection unit, said the impact of the site would be imperceptible. “It will have no impact on the health of residents in Garston,” he said.

The vote: As a result, four councillors voted in favour of the application with three abstentions, meaning the plans can now go ahead.

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What happens now? Speaking after the meeting, campaigner Mr Woollam said residents would challenge the decision. He said: “We expected that, all the big guns came out. I thought Liverpool was a forward looking city but it’s clear we’re going back to the dark days. We have instructed a solicitor to challenge the decision. I’m disappointed they haven’t had the backbone to defer it again, it’s sad but this is only the beginning.”

Veolia UK reaction: In a statement, Ms Henshaw said: “We are pleased that the planning application to expand Veolia’s Garston solvent recycling facility has been approved and means the facility will increase its supply of recycled materials to UK businesses that have been affected by the global shortage of microchips and semiconductors. This expansion will give the facility a long-term, sustainable future, whilst maintaining high standards of safety and environmental controls.”