A CONTROVERSIAL rubbish dump has had its years of operation extended in a bid to help the environment.
Grundon has been running Star Works landfill site in the Knowl Hill greenbelt for 21 years, and now has permission to continue working for another two years.
On Wednesday, July 8, the planning committee approved the time extension by virtual vote.
Cllr Simon Weeks, chair and Conservative councillor for Finchampstead South, said the site has a “a long and checkered history” which has attracted objections from MP Theresa May, the leader of Wokingham Borough Council, Cllr John Halsall, and 70 nearby residents.
But permission was granted by the planning committee so that Grundon could complete the dump’s sealing process, which involves capping the site and restoring it to green space.
In the application, Grundon noted that it was 75% through this already, with tonnes of soil already in position.
The extension will allow the waste company to complete the process, plant trees, restore the public footpath and re-seed the area.
Grundon said it was unable to finish the capping as the inert waste — such as sand, soil and concrete — was not readily available.
But this claim was opposed by MP Theresa May and many local residents.
Planning officer, Graham Vaughan said: “Ceasing operations now would prevent restoration of the land being completed.
Cllr Stephen Conway added: “Were the extension granted, we would be prolonging the disruption to neighbouring houses.
“I understand the perspective of the residents and the neighbouring Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.
“But without permission we are freezing the site in this current state — we would be unable to introduce the landscape that everyone wants to see.
“I don’t think it’ll be in anyone’s interest to refuse this application.”
Mr Vaughan added: “The effect of refusing the extension of time would mean planning permission is no longer available for work to continue on the site. If refused, work would have to stop as there is no planning permission available.
“There would be quite some difficulty with the Environment Agency. It is quite likely they would not accept the site as it is.”
Cllr Malcolm Richards, Conservative councillor for Norreys, said: “If we don’t approve, I’m concerned about the state it would be left in. But whoever took it on would take just as much time to do the restoration as Grundon.
“If they’re not making good progress — what could we do?”
Cllr Chris Bowring, Conservative councillor for Wokingham Without, added: “Grundon has written a letter to us, saying they expect to finish in July next year.”
The planning committee was concerned that Grundon was not using available inert waste from Windsor and Maidenhead borough to its advantage.
Cllr Rachelle Shepherd-DuBey said: “Why has Grundon refused some material in the past?
“Are we certain that inert material is not readily available?
“I would like to ask Grundon to liaise with Wokingham Borough Council on how much inert material they have.”
Mr Vaughan said: “I suggest a condition that the applicant would have to submit the amount left to do — which they already submit to the Environment Agency.
“It can help bring discussions to an earlier stage if they don’t seem to be making progress.”
Cllr Simon Weeks, Conservative councillor for Finchampstead South added: “We should ask the applicant to enter into meaningful discussion with Windsor and Maidenhead to take advantage of available inert material.”
It is hoped this will speed up the topping process.