Recently, I had cause to register an objection about a planning application for a proposed development on the other side of the town in which I live. It wasn't a knee-jerk NIMBY complaint; my objection was primarily around the fact that the proposed waste recycling plant was planning to import unspecified waste from an unspecified area of up to 100 mile radius and ship it all down a one way street on HGV's.
To me, that seemed like nonsense on a number of levels.
Firstly, and let's be clear about this, I'm in favour of recycling. In fact, I've campaigned long and hard that this sort of recycling facility is what is needed in communities. Humans are the only species in nature that create 'waste' so frankly, if we've created waste, we should clean it up. Which brings me to the first issue and that is proximity.
The Government are keen on the 'Proximity Principle' for dealing with waste and I agree with this. If you make a mess you should deal with it. You should not be able to simply ferry it to someone else's' back yard and expect them to deal with it for you. The plan put forward for our town was to take waste from a random and unspecified area meaning that lorry loads of waste were likely to be ferried over 100 miles for treatment.
There was a secondary issue with this plan which revolved around the fact that they couldn't tell us what the waste contained. Defined as 'residual' waste i.e. what's left over after recyclable's have been taken out, the plan is to 'break it down' and turn it into, well, something else. So, an unspecified material being turned into another unspecified material seemed to me to be a little too vague and open to misinterpretation and misuse.
Finally, there was the issue of transport. The road on which they want to build the plant only has access at one end for HGV's as there is a low railway bridge at the other. With the plan to have around 1000 lorry movements a day on this narrow street it seems to be an accident waiting to happen.
So, against this backdrop I registered my objection. And I wasn't alone. The local parish council said no to the plan as did a number of other residents. In fact, nineteen of us went to the lengths of writing formal objections.
Two weeks ago I received a letter giving me a weeks' notice that the decision on this application would be held the following week at 4pm some twenty-five miles from where I live. I was however invited to speak if I wished. What they didn't say though was that if I did then this would eat into the allocation of time given for objectors to make their case.
Further investigations revealed that between the nineteen of us who objected we had a total of three minutes to speak. Yes, three whole minutes. One hundred and eighty seconds.
I'm not sure about you but I struggle to make my case in nine and a half seconds.
In the end, we deferred to one speaker who, despite being eloquent, didn't stand a chance. Three minutes later the vote was taken. Nine councillors, none of whom live anywhere near the planned development or even our town, voted unanimously for the development to go ahead. They happily nodded it through because it means that the waste they create can be dumped somewhere else out of sight and someone else can deal with the consequences.
It was railroaded through and has left a very bad taste in the mouth.
No wonder people have a problem with politics. No wonder politicians get a bad name. These people didn't act in the best interests of their parishioners, or maybe they did? Given that all of them represented wards well away from the development maybe they did act in their best interests by dumping their waste on our doorstep. They certainly didn't act in the best interests of our town.
So there you have it. Democracy in action. You are welcome to come to our town in a year or so and see it for yourself but be prepared for the stink, not just from the rubbish they are dumping but from the political hangover.