PPS 11: Planning and Waste Management
Policy WM 1: Environmental Pollution
6.19 The operation of many waste management facilities is likely to produce noise from both inside and outside buildings. Intermittent and sustained operating noise will be of concern if not kept to acceptable levels and particularly if night-time working is involved. While this applies particularly to waste management facilities utilising heavy machinery and plant, noise can also be locally obtrusive at some small facilities such as container banks, especially those for the deposit of glass. It will often be necessary to impose planning conditions relating to noise levels during operations, and limiting times of operation.
6.20 The aim of the Department will be to achieve safe systems that limit the range of noise generated. For instance, noise from conveyors and baling equipment can be contained when located within buildings. Some external disturbance will be inevitable however from loading, unloading and associated vehicular movements. Amenity bunds, incorporating appropriate buffer planting on large sites, such as landfills, can help ameliorate the adverse effects of noise and other nuisances on nearby properties. The Department will consult the relevant District Council for advice on these issues. As a general rule the planning system is more effective in dealing with those aspects of noise control which require control of location, for example of sources of noise with respect to noise sensitive uses nearby.
Dust and Airborne Pollution
6.21 The nature of any dust particulate from waste management facilities will depend on the type of facility and can be minimised through the use of appropriate, well-maintained and managed equipment and vehicles. Air quality issues will normally be raised at the planning stage and can be a material planning consideration as well as a pollution control issue. It may be appropriate to impose a planning condition, which requires waste operators to prepare a scheme, or to indicate what measures will be undertaken, to suppress dust on a site.
6.22 Many waste management facilities have the potential to produce unpleasant odours and other airborne pollution. Good practice requirements are normally incorporated into the terms of waste licences. Pollution control standards are now much more stringent than in the past and waste management facilities are highly regulated in terms of design, operation and permitted emissions. Emissions to the atmosphere and discharges of effluent, although controlled by pollution control authorities, are material considerations to the determination of a planning application. Normally, small container banks should not present a problem although they must be emptied and cleaned frequently. The Department will consult the relevant licensing authority (currently the District Council) for advice on this issue.
6.23 Litter can often be a serious problem on waste management sites especially landfills and is normally controlled by conditions attached to the waste licence. Operators must ensure that their site operating procedures tackle this problem in a consistent and reliable way, for example by ensuring that working areas are covered at night, and that screens are erected to trap windblown litter. Vehicles bringing material to sites, and waiting to discharge loads both within and close to sites, must be appropriately netted or sheeted until unloading starts. Planning Service will liaise with the relevant licensing authority (currently the District Council) with regard to this issue.
Vermin and Birds
6.24 Waste management sites, especially landfills, are likely to attract vermin and birds. Vermin control is usually covered by the waste licence.
6.25 of some species of birds may be influenced by the distribution of landfill sites. Where birds congregate in large numbers, they have the potential to be a major nuisance to people living nearby. They also provide a hazard to aircraft at sites close to aerodromes. As part of the aerodrome safeguarding procedure, the Department is required to submit all applications for landfill developments that fall within the hazard zones of major aerodromes to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for advice. The Ministry of Defence is consulted in regard to similar development within the hazard zones of military aerodromes. In assessing landfill proposals the Department will take account of comments from the relevant safeguarding authority and information provided by site operators where potential issues are identified.
6.26 It is important that waste management and disposal sites and their environs are not liable to be affected by land instability. This might, for instance, damage containment, drainage and ancillary treatment installations for landfill and landraising sites, or affect buildings at other types of facility. Operators must satisfy themselves that the stability of proposed sites has been properly investigated and that, where necessary, appropriate precautionary or remedial measures have been taken in the design. In Northern Ireland there are over 2000 known abandoned mines and adits. Abandoned mines represent a potential source of instability which is quite distinct from surface instabilities arising from naturally occurring geological and geotechnical circumstances.
6.27 New landforms must be designed both to fit with the nature and scale of existing features in the vicinity and to be inherently stable. The intended final landform, including gradients and drainage of a site must be designed at the outset, taking account of existing ground conditions, landscaping and pollution control requirements, and options for reclamation and after-use. The Department will consult EHS and the Construction Service of the Department of Finance and Personnel for advice on these issues.
Hours of Operation
6.28 The hours of operation of a waste management facility are linked closely to the issues of noise control and traffic movements, but are also relevant, for example, to levels of lighting. Where appropriate, the Department will attach a condition to planning approvals setting out the hours of working, to the extent that they may affect surrounding land use. For instance, if a site is located close to residential or other sensitive land-uses, it would normally be inappropriate to allow work at night, during Sundays or on bank holidays. However, it is recognised that some sites may need to open occasionally during such periods, to take civic amenity wastes. At particularly sensitive sites there may be a need for additional restrictions on hours of operation.
6.29 A planning condition limiting overall hours of working will generally lead to the specification of a shorter period for site operations to make sure that these are completed by the end of the working day. With the depositing of waste in a landfill site, for instance, sufficient time is required for the newly deposited wastes to be covered before operations end for the day.
Duration of Operations
6.30 A planning permission for a waste management facility must normally be commenced within 5 years. However, different periods may be appropriate depending on the circumstances, for example, in the case of temporary approvals. The impacts of innovative proposals may need to be monitored carefully, especially during the initial stages. In some cases a time limit may be placed on the completion of operations, to allow full consideration of environmental issues in the light of the circumstances then prevailing. The duration of a consent will relate to the particular waste management proposal.
6.31 Sites for the storage and processing of construction and demolition waste, prior to recycling, particularly in relation to large scale construction developments, may have a limited life. The Department will specify an end date for the removal of waste for recycling and restoration of the site.
6.32 Landfill operations are normally undertaken in accordance with a pre¬arranged programme of phases, in order to minimise environmental disturbance. Where operations are envisaged to continue for some years, adequate time should be allowed for review of detailed restoration proposals prior to completion of the site. Conditions will normally be applied to ensure proper completion of the site. These will also give the operator the opportunity to apply to the Department to vary the working programme and other details at a later date if changed site conditions, or other new circumstances require. The Department will give prime importance to minimising the overall environmental impacts of the remaining stages of the development permitted. In considering such variations the Department will consult with the licensing authority.
6.33 Landfill and land raising operations are essentially transitory although some last for fairly long periods. If ancillary waste management facilities, not necessarily tied to the life of the landfill, are also proposed at such sites the longer term environmental benefits and disbenefits of the whole development must be considered. It will be necessary in some circumstances to limit the period of planning permissions for some co-located activities to match the date of closure of the “parent” landfill operation. In other cases it may be necessary to re-assess the environmental impact of co-located facilities when the parent facility closes.