West Lancashire dust silos set to stay

A trio of controversial silos will remain in place at a hazardous waste tip in West Lancashire after councillors were told that the facility operated better with them than it would without.

Sunday, 24th January 2021, 5:34 pm
Updated Sunday, 24th January 2021, 5:40 pm

The 12 metre-high units were installed at the Whitemoss Landfill site in Skelmersdale two years ago as part of a government-approved extension of the plant, which specialises in disposing of ash and dust generated from waste incinerators.

However, the previous operator of the business – off White Moss Road South – did not seek planning permission for the storage towers, which should have received separate approval from Lancashire County Council before they were erected.

The finer particles sent to the facility are transferred into the silos from tankers via sealed pipework before being pumped into large sacks, tied off and transported to other parts of the site.

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The three silos pictured at the Whitemoss Landfill site last year (image: CPRE presented at Lancashire County Council development control committee meeting)

However, a meeting of County Hall’s development control committee heard that the towers caused concern amongst locals last year after the top of one of them became covered in dust.

A statement read out on behalf of an unnamed resident claimed that “any dust escaping from the silos could have serious health impacts on local residents” – because it would contain dioxins created during the burning of plastics.

Skelmersdale West county councillor Julie Gibson also told the meeting via a statement that the location of the silos so close to a public highway and housing was “dangerous to residents”.

She added that she had been informed that the leakage from one of the silos “had been happening for nine months – a fact which the company later acknowledged at their annual liaison committee meeting”.

Principal planning officer Jonathan Haine said that there was not a problem with the operation of the silos “per se” and that dust had escaped from one of them because of a faulty pressure valve.

Papers presented to the meeting stated that the fault was first found last Spring and repaired, with a second issue developing in December – leading to the replacement of the equipment in question shortly before Christmas.

Mr. Haine added that the site was already permitted to receive dust and ash waste – whether or not the silos were in situ.

“Historically, these [materials] have been loose-tipped on the landfill – and the use of the silo to fill the sacks means these waste types can be deposited at the landfill space in a more controlled way, which minimises the release of any dust.”

Committee member Andrea Kay called for the units to be enclosed in their own building, but the committee was told that it would have to consider the reasonableness of imposing any such condition.

However, County Cllr Cosima Townley said the Health and Safety Executive would have been “all over the site like a rash…if there was such a bad problem.”

One of the proposed conditions of the permission was strengthened, meaning the current site operator – Whitemoss Landfill Holdings – will have to regularly inspect, maintain or replace all pressure relief valves, hose connection points and emptying pipes “to prevent unregulated emissions of dust”.

However, the West Lancashire branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England said a decision on permission was not the county council’s to make – and that any move to change the scope of works associated with the development consent order issued by the government in 2015 should be made to the secretary of state.

County Cllr Gibson requested that the decision be deferred so that members could visit the site for themselves. However, planning and environment head of service Andrew Mullaney said that a previous site visit under lockdown conditions last year had resulted in the breaches of the safety protocol put in place to protect councillors and officers – and so he could not support another one.

The application to retain the silos was approved by a majority, with eight members in favour, one against and three abstentions.