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Abandon Tip

Abandon TipAdministratively speaking, the final death throes of St Annes Tip are now playing out.

When you see minds that have been made up and closed some months ago - as you could see from the County Councillors who committed to closing the tip - you can more or less be sure that whatever good reasons you put forward to keep it open (and there were several in this case), they will be ignored. (As they have been in this case).

As the final layers have unwrapped, we've noted a couple of goings on that we thought our readers might like to know about....

The first is that in a previous article (Tip to Close), we also reported a proposal by LCC to consider using the area around St Annes Tip in the future for something like a commercial waste transfer operation, or skips, or something like a small anaerobic digester, that sort of thing.

We were puzzled how this had come to pass, and we inquired further at the public exhibition LCC held at St Annes Library.

We were told the site had been suggested and nominated for this use by "officers from Fylde Borough Council."

Now, the (almost) full story of how this came about has surfaced. The agenda and minutes of LCC's Joint Advisory Committee for Strategic Planning on 29 September provide the background.

Initially, it was just Whitehills Business Park that was identified by LCC as their preferred option to accommodate the future commercial waste needs in Fylde.

But during the County's initial consultation on this location with statutory agencies, an alternative to the Whitehills site arose 'because of concerns over the possible detrimental effect on the larger Whitehills development location which is being promoted as a high quality employment area through the Fylde Economic Development Study.'

This alternative (i.e. to use land around Queensway) was made to LCC by an officer of Fylde Borough Council, and the site at Queensway was included as an alternative possibility.

But in the public consultation on both locations, that then followed, there was significant objection to the Queensway suggestion, including two petitions with more than 600 signatures, and coverage in the local press.

In fact, LCC had also investigated a further site at Westby, but the owner of that site had no interest in using it for commercial waste purposes, so Westby was discounted.

That left the choice between Whitehills and Queensway, and after the public consultation, it was thought that the Whitehills site had benefits over the Queensway site, so LCC decided not to take forward the Queensway proposal, and to accept the Whitehills site (their original idea) as the preferred location for local built waste management facilities.

So this looks like sensible decision. But the matter merits a bit more of a look behind the scenes.

We know it was an officer from FBC that asked for Queensway to be included as a possible site.

It's likely that the proposal came from someone in Fylde's planning department, and most probably someone in the Local Plans section, (because they deal with all the land-use planning).

At first sight, you have to ask what sort of clown it could be that would think it was a better idea to have a commercial waste facility sited next to a residential area, when it could be sited in an out-of-town commercial area?

And who in their right minds would suggest transferring commercial waste away from a commercial area like Whitehills to a residential one anyway?

That's not sensible planning. And it's certainly not what a trained, professional, planning officer should do.

Is something fishy going on here? You begin to wonder why the Queensway site might have been suggested for inclusion. Then you see the LCC agenda, where it reports "concerns over the possible detrimental effect on the larger Whitehills development location which is being promoted as a high quality employment area" and perhaps the reason becomes more clear.

It looks as though someone at Fylde thought it was more important to not to sully Kensington's nice clean and shiny business park at Whitehills, than it was to upset the folk in the residential area adjacent to Queensway, with a commercial waste unit.

Given that the Whitehills site is mostly owned by Kensington, and because they build a lot of houses and own a lot of land in Fylde, Kensington have a close working relationship with Fylde's planners, you can't help wondering if there was a nudge and a wink that might have prompted the suggestion that Queensway would be a 'better' site from their point of view

If that was the case, it was very unprofessional on Fylde's part, and for residents in the Queensway area, it was also very fortunate that LCC's planners saw through the ploy.

So in this instance we can see that a proper public consultation took place and the views expressed were listened to and acted on.

Well done on this one LCC, but the next one's a really bad decision.

There has also been lots of protest about the closure of St Annes Tip / Recycling Centre - far more than the protest for the siting of the new commercial waste facility.

But in this case, the Councillors had made up their minds to close it - in our view - more or less since they were elected on a zero tax increase platform.

We've covered the closure in detail already in 'Longer Tip Trip', so we won't go into that again, but there is a bit of new news. On 9th November, the County Council held one of its 'Roadshows' in Kirkham. This one was called 'Any Questions'.

You might wonder why it was in Kirkham this time, (not that counterbalance has anything against Kirkham of course) when every previous roadshow had been in St Annes.

We couldn't help wondering if it was to do with minimising the flak that would have arisen from the closure of St Annes tip, and the fact that it's probably nearer for Kirkham folk to go to Lytham than to go to St Annes, so LCC might have calculated it would give them less hassle to have the meeting at Kirkham this time.

Anyway Kirkham it was.

But some St Annes folk who were very cross about St Annes tip closing went anyway.

Defending the decision was County Councillor Albert Atkinson, Cabinet member and Deputy Leader of LCC, and also Councillor for the North East of Ribble Valley (where there's more sheep than people). He lives in Sabden (We're not sure how close to the Treacle Mines though).

Attacking him on behalf of St Annes was one lady in particular, who said that even before the Comprehensive Spending Review, LCC was making cuts in our waste disposal services and, as a result, St. Anne's Tip - which she said catered for eighty-five thousand people and handled around ten thousand tonnes of waste a year, is due to close next March.

She argued that the closure would save a negligible amount of money in comparison with LCC's budget, but it would inconvenience thousands of people and lead to increased traffic and more vehicle emissions.

She wanted to know why LCC's officers and councillors wouldn't work together with their counterparts in Fylde and Blackpool to conscientiously consider alternative proposals put forward by local residents to keep this facility open.

It seems the answer she got was less than satisfying, and we were surprised at the content.

C Cllr Atkinson said it would save £700k in the first year, and £1m a year thereafter. It seems he went on to suggest at one point that the closure of St Annes Tip was connected with EU Regulations that required there to be only one site per district.

We've never heard anything like that before, and we've not been able to find any more detail on it. So either it's very new regulations (in which case it probably wasn't the reason for the closure that was decided months ago anyway), or he seems to be telling porkies.

She also wanted to know why the County Councillors wouldn't even agree to meet with Mark Menzies MP and Fylde's Council Leader David Eaves who had both offered to do what they could to help.

She argued that money would have to be spent on improving & extending the Saltcoates site at Lytham, and said that C Cllr Atkinson hadn't addressed the issue of why Mark Menzies was refused the opportunity for discussion on the matter.

The answer was quite a surprise to us - especially given that all three are Conservatives.

It seems C Cllr Atkinson was of the view that our MP was using the situation with St. Annes tip as a PR exercise. (yes really!) but he wouldn't be drawn further on this comment.

He then said that he had since spoken with the MP and FBC's David Eaves who - he suggested - both now accept the position with the closure. We've no idea whether that comment's right either.

What a strange turn of events.

And what a bad decision County Councillors have made on this one.

Not only are they closing the tip, they're also disregarding the results of the expressed public view and, it seems, they're prepared to wriggle any which way the can to obscure their failing the people of St Annes.

Dated:  21 November 2010


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