Re: EIA decision
Previously we raised the issue of the failures to identify the need for an EIA at all levels. We are pleased to see in your “minded to” letter of 14th Feb that you agree that the development is Schedule-1 EIA.
It is difficult for us to see how the applicant for the permit argues against the need but at least they have been consistent in their need to convince authority to make wrong decisions.
We are concerned, however, that the delay confirming that an EIA is ordered may be seen by some as giving time to the applicant to continue to make progress with a development that an EIA and other analysis will demonstrate is dangerous to health and the environment. Your letter promised a decision “as soon as possible” after 7th March. The refusal to let others see the letter means that the process is not transparent which is a worry for many. We note that your screening direction would be made under Reg. 5 (11) and whatever the letter from the applicant says the decision is surely obvious.
The Welsh Ministers may make a screening direction of their own volition or take such steps as appear to be reasonable to them in the circumstances, having regard to the requirements of regulation 6(2) and (4), to obtain information about the proposed development to inform a screening direction. The decision needed is a technical decision based on simple law that is clearly set out in your letter. Although there is no requirement to allow the applicant to make representations on the subject especially where they have had many opportunities to address the issue we understand why you took this step. It is however important that the applicant’s input is not seen as a delaying tactic especially where the process is dealt with between the Welsh Government and the applicant with the public excluded. Such a course of action is not in accordance with the law and is likely to be resented by the public. There is a history of NRW refusing to explain their processes and to properly address the concerns raised by the public. Your letter was an opportunity to show to the public that openness can be achieved. The delay and withholding of the information will worry the public no matter what the outcome of your deliberations.
Your 14th February letter gave full and clear reasons for overturning the screening decision of the VoG Council in October 2017. Their failure to acknowledge the development is caught by Schedule 1 of The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Wales) Regulations 2017 has always been and remains inexplicable. We are grateful to you for making this plain with your letter although it appears the VoG Council and NRW are still in denial. Their incompetence has been very frustrating for the public especially due to the way it impacts on the local community.
If the applicant Biomass UK No.2 has sought to convince you that your proposed Direction is erroneous because for example the development fits better under Schedule 2 due perhaps to the fact they went ahead and built the unit at their own risk then we would want to have the opportunity to make representations to you that the development is without doubt likely to have significant effect on the environment, as already shown in practice during construction. It is not accepted that such an argument on the part of Biomass is a good argument.
You can, we would also argue, continue to issue the EIA Direction as intended even if you determine the amendments come under Schedule 2 and that the scope of the EIA should remedy the lack of EIA for the project as a whole.
We would welcome release of the Biomass reply and also, confirmation of the minded-to decision without further delay.
Note to reader: The above letter should be read in conjunction with the recent Friends Of The Earth letter submitted to Lesley Griffiths, Welsh Government Minister for Planning, by Max Wallis. Highlighting longstanding issues and the legal requirements of an Environmental Impact Assessment, of which their is no requirement for the governing body to consult with the applicant.
We have attached Max Wallis’s letter below. Simply click to download:FoEtoLesleyGriffiths 21Mar'18