Case law: A waste recovery or disposal operation?

4th November 2015


Related Topics

Related tags

  • Business & Industry ,
  • Planning ,
  • Waste ,
  • Pollution & Waste Management

Author

Ben Stanton

Emma Lui of Lexis PSL considers a High Court ruling on whether a proposal by Lafarge should be defined as waste disposal or waste recovery.

Lafarge had applied for planning permission to extract sand and gravel from a quarry in Leeds. The planning conditions included restoration of a public footpath. The firm proposed using recovered waste materials to reinstate the footpath and applied to the Environment Agency for a permit. The application and an appeal to the Defra inspector were rejected.

In R (Lafarge Aggregates Limited) v Secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, the High Court had to decide whether the proposed operations were "waste recovery" under art 3(15) of the revised Waste Framework Directive, and therefore eligible for a standard rules permit, or "waste disposal", which required a bespoke permit. The court held that Lafarge's proposed operations did not clearly fall within one of the recovery operations listed in annex II to the directive, so it looked at whether they fell within art 3(15). This rested on whether the waste served a "useful purpose" in replacing other materials - an approach established by Abfall Service AG (ASA) v Bundesminister für Umwelt, Jugend und Familie.

The court found that the planning condition requiring restoration of the path was not conclusive in ascertaining whether the waste served a useful purpose. It also said the inspector had been entitled to consider other approaches for the restoration and, on the balance of probabilities, to conclude that non-waste materials would not be used in the circumstances, so waste materials were not required as a substitute. Lafarge's arguments therefore related to matters of weight, not the legality of the inspector's decision, said the court in rejecting the application for a judicial review.

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