The site near Newton Abbot closed in 2016.
Devon County Council officials at the time said there was insufficient waste to support both Heathfield and Broadpath, near Tiverton, landfill operations.
But since the cessation of tipping at Heathfield, landfill tonnages have not declined as quickly as anticipated, a report the Devon County Council’s development management committee stated, who are heard that Broadpath is due to close in early 2019.
As the existing planning consent for Heathfield required landfill operations to cease by January 31, 2018, an application, submitted by Viridor, was seeking to vary the condition to extend the cessation date to five years from whenever waste starts being deposited, as well as to update the phasing and restoration plans for the site.
Councillors on Devon County Council’s development management committee on Wednesday afternoon approved reopening the landfill site after hearing that there was still capacity at the site and that there was nowhere else in Devon that landfill waste could go.
Recommending approval, Mike Deaton, chief planner, said: “It is considered that the extension of time to allow for further tipping to utilise the remaining capacity is acceptable and that any potential impacts can be adequately mitigated and controlled through planning conditions, a legal agreement and through the site monitoring process.
“The alternative option would be to refuse this application and require the operator to continue with restoration of the site under the provisions on the original consent. This option would risk Devon having insufficient landfill capacity to meet its anticipated needs and thereby increase the distances that waste is transported for disposal.”
Chris Herbert, speaking on behalf of Viridor, said: “The case here is planning permission for the landfill has expired but there is void space that can be filled. There is an ongoing need for some capacity and this is not a reduced desire to recycle. We are asking for no more than what the council has previously approved and there are no objections from Highways, Natural England, the Environment Agency or Environment Health departments.”
Councillors had been on a site visit in the morning, and Cllr Jackie Hook said that the council should object to this. She said: “This is contrary to the Devon waste plan, and our strapline is ‘don’t let Devon go to waste’ and zero landfill is a legitimate aim. By doing this, we are accepting defeat ourselves, not dealing with the prevention of waste, and panicking to say we need more landfill.”
Cllr Jacqui Hodgson added that she had deep concerns about the proposal and said it was ‘barbaric’ to be returning to landfill.
But Cllr Ray Bloxham said: “I get the local concern as the site was closed a couple of years ago and I do get the drive towards zero landfill, which is a drive we should aspire to, but the reality is, we have this issue to deal with today. If we don’t approved this, the question is, what happens to the waste, and I don’t think we have an answer to that.
“We have to deal with the practically of here and now and I am satisfied that we should be support this.”
And Cllr Philip Sanders added that this extension was only for a short period of time. He said: “During that time, we will run out of landfill capacity, so we will have to be transport it elsewhere. We will have then the double whammy of the costs on the tax payer and the pollution costs of transporting it. A responsible committee representing the tax payers, we should be supporting this.”
Hennock Parish Council had objected to the plans, saying: “Devon County Council’s strategy is that what can’t go into an incinerator should be recycled – reopening the site undermines DCC’s strategy. Technology and understanding about recycling has moved on and this would be a backward step given the pressure to reduce landfill.
“There will be an impact of the traffic in terms of congestion, pollution and mud on the road and the smell from the landfill and composting facility had an adverse impact on the health of residents as the odours from which were, at times, very strong and unpleasant, and had an adverse impact on the wellbeing of the residents of Chudleigh Knighton.”
But the report of Mr Deaton said that it was compliant with the council’s waste policy.
He said: “The plan recognises that there will remain a requirement for non-hazardous landfill capacity to manage wastes that are difficult to manage higher up the waste hierarchy. With the closure of Broadpath landfill site anticipated at the end of 2018, Devon would be left with a single non-hazardous landfill site at Deep Moor (Torrington) that is not well located for the major sources of CIW in the south and the east of the county.
“There is a demonstrable need for landfill capacity in the county which is evidenced by the most recent waste monitoring report together with the lack of future landfill capacity in Devon beyond 2024.”
Mitigation measures to cope with dust, noise, windblown litter and the odour are all provided as part of the conditions.
Committee chairman, Cllr Jerry Brook, said: “I understand the residents’ concerns, but they are addressed in the conditions and the report.”
He proposed approval, which was accepted by 11 votes to two, with one abstention.