Thursday, February 09, 2006

Cement plant could be forced to close

As printed in the Rugby Advertiser today...

A £200 million cement works in Rugby could be forced to close down - at least temporarily - if environmental campaigners succeed in an Appeal Court test case.
Residents are challenging the Environment Agency's August 2003 decision to grant a Pollution Prevention and Control Certificate enabling the Lawford Road plant to operate.

If the objectors win their case and Appeal Court judges 'quash' the certificate, the plant's owners, Rugby Ltd, say that could mean closing the factory - which cost £200 million to build - at least until a fresh application for a certificate can be made.

Even if total closure could be avoided, the factory would face having to cease using shredded tyres as fuel for its furnaces until the required authorisation was in place, said the company's counsel, Mr. Nigel Pleming QC.

Campaigners hit out when the Environment Agency granted the PPC Certificate which enabled the plant to continue operating and gave the go-ahead for a 'trial' of waste-tyre burning, which Rugby Ltd hopes could eventually cater for 40 per cent of the plant's fuel needs.

With their case spear-headed by local man David Edwards objectors had their judicial review challenge to the Certificate dismissed by a judge in April last year, but are now battling on in the Appeal Court in a case which could have widespread ramifications.

Mr. Edwards' counsel, Mr. David Wolfe, has told Lord Justice Auld, Lord Justice Rix and Lord Justice Maurice Kay that, even before the tyre-burning plans were mooted, local people were concerned about 'dust fallouts' and 'dust-like snow' emanating from the plant.

Anxiety was focused on tiny particles which are said to be linked to reductions in lung function, respiratory problems and increased risks to those with heart disease.

Mr. Pleming said the factory is a modern facility which was granted planning permission by Warwickshire County Council as long ago as 1996 when a full Environmental Impact Assessment was carried out before it began operating in early 2000.

He said the reality was that the judicial review challenge was being brought by local campaign group, Rugby In Plume (RIP), and they, not Mr. Edwards, are the 'real claimants'.

It was some measure of the implaccable opposition to the tyre-burning plans that the EA took almost two years to issue the PPC Certificate after a comprehensive consultation exercise.

Mr. Pleming argued it was unfair that, since launching his case, Mr. Edwards' lawyers had 'entirely shifted their focus' so as to challenge not only the tyre-burning proposals but the entire basis of the Certificate, thus threatening the plant with possible, temporary closure.

David Elvin QC, for the Environment Agency, accused campaigners of making 'unsupported contentions about the environmental impact of the cement works that are contradicted by the most recent evidence before the court.'

Urging the judges to dismiss Mr. Edwards' appeal, the barrister said his case had 'shifted fundamentally' since it was launched.

He added: "The Agency went to very considerable efforts to consult on Rugby Ltd's application, to inform the public and to answer the genuine concerns raised at the time."
Judges are expected to reserve their decision until a later date.
09 February 2006


M. Hartford said...

Who wrote this!?

It's all rubbish. As far as I was aware there has been no environmental impact assessment at all.

Are the local papers being paid off to write this rubish or just sitting next to the fax machine and printing any old press release that is fed to them.

I fear real journalism is dead.

Lilian said...

Thank you for that comment. You are absolutely right and I will enlarge on it in due course, with a time line and copies of documents. Certainly there has been NO EIA! Rugby Cement 1995 originally put in an Environmental Statement to WCC that was "short on the factual" and even said such gems as "there is no need to consider the burning of waste at this plant as we have no intention of burning it." Then they built a plant specifically designed to burn waste/low cost fuels as they "prefer" to call it! That bit at least is partially correct "no-cost-to-us wastes as fuel" is more correct. Or they could even have the truth "we are paid to burn waste instead of our buying coal!"

WCC accepted this ES without understanding what they were doing - presumably? Either that or the other possibility that someone/some group from WCC accepted this ES deliberately and in full knowledge. In any case surely no one can be that stupid for that long, so it was either wilfull, or in ignorance. We have asked them this question, but they have not yet decided which way to jump! Not surprisingly - by what colour rope would you like to be hanged?

Oh, this was supposed to be a short reply, so in short WCC and RBC do not appear to understand what EIA means. There has NEVER been any environmental assessment, and this matter is before the courts at the moment, along with the accusation that the Environment Agency has failed to carry out a full and fair consultation procedure. As they admitted in court "we carried out a limited consultation".

All these authorities make full use of the "Mushroom Syndrome" - keep the public in the dark and pour buckets of manure on their heads twice a day. The only course of action available to the humans that pay their wages is to spend hours on research trying to find out the facts that these authorities desperately try to hide. Then we can do three things: complain to them about themselves - rather pointless: complain to the Ombudsman about them - also pointless: try to get a Judicial Review - which is so so costly and difficult as they have all our public money to spend to try to stop the truth coming out.

RIP spokesman said...

This report in the Advertiser would have been cut from a much longer report that a Court Reporter would have sent out to the newspapers. The Court Reporter tries to give a balanced and impartial view of each side, and would have made his press release based on the skeleton arguments that he picked up in the Court. He would not have been there each and every day to hear the argument develop, and in fact may only have been in the Court to pick up copies of the skeleton arguments. Obviously the cutting and pasting from the original can lead to a certain slant, or a certain emphasis, appearing in the local press. Mr Edwards was the real claimant in this case, joined by the people of Rugby who contributed £7,500 to the costs of bringing this case. RIP were and are the Campaign Group. This money was collected by an appeal in the streets of Rugby, and local people donated sums from £500 to £1. Eight Rugby Councillors also donated 1% of the "pay" they receive from Rugby residents from our Council Taxes.

This case is about an alleged abuse of process, involving how the Environment Agency conducted the public consultation. It was indeed a "lengthy consultation" but what about the quality of the information made available and presented at that time? It is about what evidence they gave out, and whether what was given out by Rugby Cement under the auspices of the Agency, was correct or not? Did the public have a "fair chance" to make their voice heard.

RBC were also involved in this failure to consult, in that they organised meetings, and had reports made into "tyre burning at the cement works", instead of into the actual IPPC application, while PCT asked "Is it better, or worse, for the people of Rugby to breathe tyre fumes or coal dust?"

RIP supporter said...

You only have to pass by Rugby on the train or M6 to understand that there cannot possibly have EVER been any sort of Environmental Impact Assessment at all. Talk about stating the blooming obvious! Even looking at the purely visual and loss of amenity it is a non-starter. Then a giant plume blowing over the people and landing on them 24/7 is obviously of such high impact that it cannot possibly pass any EIA. Consider also the frequent dust storms and doses of toxic pollutants raining down on Rugby folk as the town is directly down wind of the plant. 800+ heavy lorries thundering through the town.. also a non starter. Worse still why would anyone build a cement plant where the raw materials ran out years ago, meaning everything would have to be transported by truck through the town in lorry trains? And WCC to allow them at the same time as they built the plant, to also close the railway? And as for having a wet process with a wet plume that is guaranteed to ground locally on Rugby residents? Well words fail me. No there has been no EIA, and the authorities are fighting to stop Rugby people getting one as all this will then be revealed. This plant had no lawful IPC Permit either... no EIA, no lawful planning permission, no IPC Permit and no IPPC permit either. The truth will be heard in the end, and also the duplicity of those involved in this terrible imposition upon the 90,000 people of Rugby. It is doomed, and the Mexican hats along with it! Bring on the Environmental Impact Assessment!

S. Jenkins said...

All these letters are making me dizzy. I gather from the over all stant of the information that the people of Rugby (inc Me) have been sold up the river. But Why? Is it purely and simply money and if so how much?

I understand that cement is important but surely the Rugby plant does not have the monopoly on such things.