The Environment Agency
"1.0 Introduction 1.1 The Environment Agency is an executive non-departmental public body, established under the Environment Act 1995. It is an adviser to Government with principal aims to protect and improve the environment, and to promote sustainable development. It plays a central role in delivering the environmental priorities of central government through its functions and roles. It is also an adviser to local decision makers in its role as a statutory consultee in respect of particular types of development, as listed in Schedule 4 of the Development Management Procedure Order 2015. For the purposes of this Development Consent Order (DCO), we are a statutory interested party. 1.2 We take action to conserve and secure proper use of water resources, preserve and improve the quality of rivers, estuaries and coastal waters and groundwaters through pollution control powers and regulating discharge consents. We have a duty to implement the Water Framework Directive. 1.3 We have regulatory powers in respect of waste management and remediation of contaminated land designated as special sites. We also encourage remediation of land contamination through the planning process. 1.4 The Environment Agency is the principal flood risk management operating authority. It has the power (but not the legal obligation) to manage flood risk from designated main rivers and the sea. The Environment Agency is also responsible for increasing public awareness of flood risk, flood forecasting and warning and has a general supervisory duty for flood risk management. We also have a strategic overview role for all flood and coastal erosion risk management. 1.5 We have three main roles: • We are an environmental regulator – we take a risk-based approach and target our effort to maintain and improve environmental standards and to minimise unnecessary burdens on businesses. We issue a range of permits and consents. • We are an environmental operator – we are a national organisation that operates locally. We work with people and communities across England to protect and improve the environment in an integrated way. We provide a vital incident response capability. • We are an environmental adviser – we compile and assess the best available evidence and use this to report on the state of the environment. We use our own monitoring information and that of others to inform this activity. We provide technical information and advice to national and local governments to support their roles in policy and decision-making. 2.0 Scope of these representations 2.1 These relevant representations contain an overview of the project issues, which fall within our remit. They are given without prejudice to any future detailed representations that we may make throughout the examination process. We may also have further representations to make if supplementary information becomes available in relation to the project. 2.2 We have reviewed the DCO, Environmental Statement (ES) and supporting documents submitted as part of the above mentioned application, which we received on 14 October 2021. Our comments are presented below: 3.0 Environmental permit 3.1 Under The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 a permit is required for installations, medium combustion plant, specified generator, waste or mining waste operations, water discharge or groundwater activities, or work on or near a main river or sea defence. 3.2 The current operations at the ENRMF are subject to 3 environmental permits which will need to be varied under Schedule 5, Part 1, Paragraph 19 of The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016. 3.3 We can confirm that applications have been submitted to the Environment Agency to vary the environmental permits in respect of the existing waste treatment and recovery facility, as well as the extension to the hazardous waste and low level radioactive waste (LLW) landfill site. 3.4 The environmental permit variation to operate a waste treatment and recovery facility (ref: EPR/YP3138XB/007) has been allocated to a permitting officer, and discussions between the operator and our National Permitting Service are taking place. 3.5 The environmental permit variation to extend the boundary of the landfill facility (ref: EPR/TP3430GW/V005) has been received by our National Permitting Service and is awaiting allocation to a permitting officer. 3.6 We note that the applicant will submit a variation of the environmental permit for the disposal of LLW quantities (radioactive waste comprising solid low level radioactive waste typically with a specific activity of up to 200Bq/g) during the DCO examination. 4.0 Protection of groundwater and land contamination 4.1 We have no objections to the proposal in relation to the protection of groundwater. 4.2 We have been in discussion with the operator’s consultants regarding this extension since 2018, which is clearly presented in the application documents. This has been with particular emphasis on adherence to requirements of our landfill location policy and protection of the swallow hole. 4.3 It should be noted that our landfill location policy, previously contained in our Groundwater Protection: principles and practice (GP3) document, was brought into question prior to the previous extension application. This was in connection to the minimum thickness of natural low permeability geological barrier that should be present above a principal aquifer before a landfill, such as this, could be considered acceptable. This resulted in a clarification, which is now contained in Section E of our document ‘The Environment Agency’s approach to groundwater protection’ (v. 1.2) dated February 2018, which is as follows: A barrier will not be considered 'substantial' for a landfill development if there is unpredictable variability in its layers, or if there are natural or artificial by-pass routes that could compromise its overall protective integrity. There should be a minimum of several metres of natural material in a substantial barrier, such that: • any variations in its thickness over a site are insignificant in terms of the performance of the barrier • any construction/excavation activity at the site poses no risk of breaching the integrity of the barrier • it is clear that the geological barrier is substantial from a basic assessment of the site, which may include confirmatory site investigation data but without the necessity of very detailed site investigation or detailed quantitative risk assessment. 4.4 This clarification along with a full detailed groundwater risk assessment allowed us to agree the current site design and the environmental permit. This requires that at least 2 metres of natural low permeability strata will be left in place below the base of the engineered landfill and above the limestone strata underlying the site. 4.5 The applicant’s consultants have assessed the potential impacts associated with the site geology, hydrogeology and hydrology in the proposed western extension area. This included a detailed site investigation with the drilling of numerous boreholes to establish the geology and hydrogeology of the extension area. As previously mentioned a swallow hole is present to the north west of the existing ENRMF landfill site and there is evidence of other solution features in the limestone geology (dolines). 4.6 The findings of this investigation work and proposed landfill design was discussed in a pre-permit application meeting with the Environment Agency and the applicant’s consultants on 17 July 2020. 4.7 A design consistent with the principles of the current site design and the environmental permit, at least 2 metres of natural low permeability strata will be left in place below the base of the engineered landfill and above the limestone strata underlying the site was agreed in principle. 4.8 A full detailed risk assessment demonstrating that there will be no significant impact on groundwater quality or flow beneath the site or at receptors nearby as a consequence of the extraction and construction of the proposed western extension should be included in the environmental permit application. 4.9 It was also agreed that the final design of the proposed landfill extension in the vicinity of the swallow hole and potential other limestone solution features will be developed in detail following the grant of the DCO and the environmental permit variation for the hazardous waste landfill. This will need further targeted site investigations to be carried out in this central area of the proposed western extension prior to finalising the design in this area. 5.0 Development Consent Order 5.1 The Environment Agency wishes to be a specific named consultee in respect of Schedule 2, Requirement 3 (4) (detailed design for the surface water management plan) and Requirement 4 (1)(Phasing, landscaping and restoration scheme), and requests that the words “following consultation with the Environment Agency” are inserted after “relevant planning authority”. This is to ensure that the proposed plan/scheme does not pose a risk to controlled waters. 5.2 Schedule 3 (Procedure for appovals under requirements) – we have concerns that the procedure outlined under part 4(2) will not allow sufficient time for us to comment on relevant consultations. For example, if the relevant planning authority does not send the consultation to us until day 5 following receipt of the application that will only leave 13 business day in which we need to respond. This falls short of the usual 15 business days (or 21 calendar days) for statutory consultation responses prescribed in the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure)(England) Order 2015. The Environment Agency requests that appropriate amendments are made to part 4 to ensure 21 calendar days (or 15 business days) are available for consultation responses to be made. 6.0 Further representations 6.1 In summary, we can confirm that we have no objection to the proposed development. However, we reserve the right to add or amend these representations, including requests for DCO Requirements and protective provisions should further information be forthcoming during the course of the examination on issues within our remit."