According to the ESA, there is significant scope to improve the planning culture within many local authorities to give the industry the flexibility it needs to adapt to the new, sustainable business models shaped by the Circular Economy.
ESA’s new report, Planning for a Circular Economy outlines aspects of the planning regime which it said can often frustrate the industry’s efforts towards this aim.
The report says: "While we are not advocating a complete overhaul of the system, clearly a more responsive planning system is needed to ensure that the economic and environmental benefits of the new Circular Economy are not missed."
Among its recommendations, the report suggests:
- a more integrated approach to waste and energy policy. Local plans should include robust policies to support the UK’s transition to a largely decarbonised heat sector. In practice, this should allow for sufficient provision (or sites) for energy from waste (EfW) within local plans which maximise the potential for use of heat through combined heat and power. Doing so will maximise heat offtake and therefore improve the environmental benefits of EfW
- planning authorities should seek to engage developers on draft conditions attached to planning consent prior to submission to planning committee. This would help to firstly identify and then address those conditions which might unreasonably impact on the operational use or commercial viability of waste management development
- a shift in planning culture should aim to help planners shrug off the strict “control regime” of the “landfill era” and instead recognise the transition in the waste and recycling industry. Modern recycling facilities now tend to resemble “mainstream” industrial and logistics operations and should not face any additional operational restrictions through planning consent than other, similar industries
- policies designed to encourage housing supply should be sympathetic to the requirements of operational waste management development, and sites allocated for waste development.
ESA’s policy advisor, Stephen Freeland said: "Many local authorities need to let go of the strict control culture that has prevailed in one form or another since the 'landfill era' and instead adopt a more responsive approach to planning for waste management which better recognises the variable and dynamic nature of the space in which our industry now operates. Our industry increasingly resembles that of any other logistics business with materials moved around as markets dictate.
"Few other sectors face the same planning and political obsession about the origin of material or commodities, and where these should be transported to. To hamstring the resource and waste management industry in such a way will likely hamper investment and progress towards the objectives of the Circular Economy," added Freehand.
The new report will be available from the ESA website - www.esauk.org/esa_reports/