‘Residents fear the summer’: Landfill site near Chesterfield granted 14-year extension – despite objections
The owners of a Derbyshire landfill have been given 14 extra years to fill it in, despite complaints from residents about foul smells, flies, seagulls, dust and noise.
More than 250 residents had opposed plans from Viridor to extend its deadline for filling in the Erin Landfill in Duckmanton, between Chesterfield and Bolsover, alongside the M1.
This is due to a significant slew of issues they have been facing for years and had hoped to see end once the site is filled in and restored as a nature reserve.
Viridor currently has until May 31 – a month and a half – to finish filling in the landfill but is way behind schedule due to a large reduction in waste with which to fill in the site, in part due to improved recycling.
The firm has asked Derbyshire County Council for a 14-year extension – giving it until May 31, 2035, to finish filling in the site – and its officers had recommended that this is approved.
A scheme to turn the site into a nature reserve is due to be completed two years after operations stop.
The alternative to a time extension, it says, is to create a new landfill elsewhere.
At a meeting on Monday, councillors on the authority’s planning committee unanimously approved the time extension.
Councillor Martyn Ford, the chairman of the committee, said: “I can see why they wish to extend and if we close this one, will they have to open another one? That is the question.
“I can fully appreciate the local residents, we all live in a community which at some point in time has been an open cast mine or sand and gravel.”
He said residents do need the peace of mind that this would be the final extension and that Viridor knows they now must fill the site by 2035.
He said the decision may not be the right one for some but would be better in the long term.
Coun Diane Charles said the topic was a ‘very emotive issue for residents’ and she has ‘great sympathy’ for them.
Coun Paul Smith, Labour group leader and member of the planning committee, said: “This is a 16 year extension (14 years for fill, two years to restore), that is a long, long period of time and there is still not any real guarantee that they will meet that date, so I can understand the feelings of the community.
“Ultimately it is dependent on how much waste we do not recycle and eventually I am hoping the energy from waste development kicks in and takes away the need for landfills, not just in this county but throughout the country.
“We are caught between a rock and a hard place.”
Viridor submitted a statement to the meeting saying the firm had donated substantial amounts of money to local companies and charities over the years, but council officers said ‘this really can’t play a part in making decisions’.
Viridor also said there was a ‘clear need’ for a landfill locally, and strategically for the region and that a liaison group between the operator and residents would restart soon.
The firm has altered its restoration scheme to the site, substantially increasing the area which will become grassland, hedges, trees and scrubland, however the space for woodland would be significantly reduced.
Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins submitted a statement to the meeting, saying: “The Erin Landfill has been a longstanding source of complaints to my office due to the problems with smells from the area and the infestation of flies.”
He said the issue with flies hit a peak in the summer of 2016 with ‘swarms invading their homes for several weeks, which was particularly distressing’.
Mr Perkins said ‘residents had become to fear the summer, due to the potential smell and the pest issues which can occur’.
He said: “It is disappointing that these plans (to finish filling the site by 2021) have changed and I feel like the site is having an endless negative impact on the community.”
Christopher Scarr, speaking on behalf of campaigning residents in Duckmanton and the surrounding area, also submitted a statement, saying: “Those who stand nothing to gain, other than the quality of life, want this landfill stopped – now.”
The closest homes to the site are 100 metres away from the landfill and residents have said they are often unable to enjoy their own gardens due to the foul smells and noise coming from Veriodor’s operations.
A total of 258 residents signed a petition calling for the site to not have a time extension approved and to close the site next month, as scheduled.
They wrote that they had been ‘deprived of the right to enjoy home and garden due to odours, noise, flies, rodents, seagulls and landscape impact’.
They also claim they are often ‘invaded’ by flies, saying that a time extension for the site would create ‘years more misery’.
Viridor has operated the landfill, which covers 130 acres, since 1999 and it had previously operated as an open cast coal mine since 1980.
The vast majority of the site, around 100 acres, is currently void and needs filling.
Chesterfield Borough Council’s environmental health officer had written: “Environmental Health have received complaints alleging that the site gives rise to odour and flies.
“As the site is operated under an Environmental Permit issued by the Environment Agency (EA) all residents have been informed to contact the EA as they have a statutory responsibility to investigate those complaints.”
Responding to the application, the EA did not object and wrote: “Full control over the environmental aspects of the site – for example, gas and leachate generation – can only be achieved if all phases of the site are completed as planned.
“The current Environmental Permit gives regulatory control over the materials and application of materials used.
“For these reasons we have no objection to the proposed time extension.”