Residents left ‘physically sick’ by mountain-like Whittle-le-Woods landfill site

Posted on - 31st January, 2024 - 8:00am | Author - | Posted in - Preston News, South Ribble News
Clayton Hall landfill
Clayton Hall landfill

The operator of a complaints-hit landfill site in Chorley has been ordered to stop depositing waste at the dump until levels have been reduced to within approved limits.

The Clayton Hall landfill facility, in Whittle-le-Woods, has long been a source of consternation for nearby residents as a result of the stench that it intermittently emits across the surrounding area.

Last week, the problem once again rose to the surface, with one local complaining that they were almost “physically sick” when the smell from the Dawson Lane operation settled over their back garden, while another declared that the stockpile of waste was worthy of being “reclassified as mountain”.

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In response, Lancashire County Council now has taken enforcement action after concluding that rubbish had been dumped above the maximum height allowed by the planning permission granted for the site.   The authority has given the operator 28 days to remove and relocate all of the waste that exceeds that permitted level, which the conditions of the permission state must not be breached either “temporarily or permanently”

The move follows intervention from Chorley MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle and the county council’s Clayton with Whittle division representative Mark Clifford.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) understands that County Hall has served a breach of condition notice and temporary stop notice on three companies associated with the site – Opes MRF 2013, Quercia and Neales Waste Management – due to a lack of clarity over who is currently responsible for it.

Quercia has previously responded to enquiries about the site, but County Cllr Clifford told the LDRS he believed that Opes MRF 2013 had become involved in November 2023. Quercia is now described on its website as being “part of Opes”.   The LDRS was unable to reach either company by phone on Monday.

County Cllr Clifford added that compliance with the enforcement notices – issued on Friday afternoon – would be a test of whether Opes intended “to be a good neighbour”.  He said that the volume of rubbish arriving at the site had increased significantly in the last two months.

“Basically, they have built a huge mountain of waste, rather than filling the tipping cell [on the site].

“You can smell it now, but when summer comes, things could get really bad.  The breach of condition notice…is to make sure they move the waste into the tipping cell now – because if that has to be moved in the summer, it’s going to be horrendous.

“Also, there are dangers on Dawson Lane itself, [because] there are so many trucks lined up [waiting to get] into the site that they end up sat there [with] their hazard lights on [along] a country lane,” County Cllr Clifford said.

Lancashire’s County Council’s cabinet member for environment and climate change, Shaun Turner, said: “The planning permissions for Clayton Hall landfill site are subject to conditions, including a height restriction.

“However, waste has been tipped at the site at levels above this approved height.

“This means that the operator is currently in breach of the planning permission therefore the council undertook enforcement action on 26th January.

“The operator must immediately cease all landfilling above the approved levels and relocate waste above the approved level within 28 days.

“We take residents’ concerns very seriously and we will always take action to ensure that planning restrictions are adhered to,”  County Cllr Turner added.

In a statement to local media last week, after concerns were raised about the waste mountain, a Quercia spokesperson said:  “The site continues to operate a range of industry-standard odour suppression systems and we would ask any residents to report any concerns relating to possible odour from the site to our team on 01257 273311.”

The problems at Clayton Hall peaked around six years ago, when locals took to the streets in protest at the putrid odour they were having to endure, which was likened by some to a mixture of rotten eggs and gas.   Work to cap part of the landfill subsequently eased the immediate issue, but fires caused further disturbance for residents in 2021 and 2022.

Last year, Quercia was granted permission by the county council to retain the infrastructure needed for “landfill gas and leachate management” until 2035, seven years after it was due to expire.

The authority’s development control committee gave the go-ahead to the extension after hearing that a time limit for on-site leachate tanks and gas engines had previously been set at 2028 – the point at which landfill activity at the former sand quarry must cease.

Once waste disposal stops, the active area of the landfill site will be capped and the plot restored within 12 months – but gas and leachate generation is expected to continue for several more years, demanding continued management, county councillors were told.

Broader aftercare of the landfill – which dates back to the 1960s – is set to continue until 2088.

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