Aaron Bell MP, Member of Parliament for Newcastle-under-Lyme, Welcomes Landmark Walley’s Quarry Ruling
Aaron Bell MP has welcomed today’s High Court ruling that the Environment Agency must do more to protect Mathew Richards, a five-year-old boy, from noxious landfill gases which doctors say are shortening his life expectancy.
Lawyers for Mathew argued the hydrogen sulphide emissions from the landfill, Walley’s Quarry in Silverdale, operated by Walleys Quarry Ltd and regulated by the EA, have worsened his underlying health issues.
The landmark judgement, handed down by Mr Justice Fordham earlier today, means that the Environment Agency must now take more action to reduce hydrogen sulphide levels from the landfill by January next year.
Mr Justice Fordham said in his judgement ‘I am not satisfied, on the evidence, that the EA has yet addressed its legal duties in the way that it must. But there is an obvious and pressing public interest imperative that it must do so, as a matter of urgency.’
The Court ruled that the current levels of hydrogen sulphide from Walleys Quarry Landfill Site constitute a breach by the EA of its operational ‘duty’, highlighting that the 'EA can do “much, much more” than is currently being done, both in relation to waste reception (currently primarily left as a matter of ‘self-regulation’ by WQLS) and in relation to waste which is already on site’.
Aaron Bell MP said, “I am delighted with today’s outcome and commend the family for their strength over recent months, as well as the legal team, who worked so hard to bring about this landmark result. This is a win for the family, who can be very proud of how they have fought for Mathew, and for the wider community, all of whom have been suffering for far too long.
“The entire Newcastle-under-Lyme community deserves better than the complacency of the last twelve months - for too long the EA has allowed this problem to drag on, even as it presents a serious and ongoing risk to health to the most vulnerable in our community.
“I eagerly await the publication of a new plan which will bring the site’s emissions into the tougher compliance measures outlined by Mr Justice Fordham within the timeline indicated by the court. It is imperative the EA delivers on these legal obligations as soon as possible.
“It is also clear from today’s judgement that continuing to allow the site to accept new waste, beyond what is required for capping, is untenable. The EA should look again at suspending the permit until the hydrogen sulphide problem is resolved, as I have repeatedly requested.
“The EA has difficult questions to answer about how this crisis has been handled over the course of many months, particularly given that the judge said that they can do “much, much more”. Today’s judgement will leave many in the community with no confidence in the EA's ability to deliver – I certainly share this concern and believe fresh leadership is required to get a grip on this problem once and for all.
“Today’s ruling also sends a strong message to the operator of the site. They can no longer continue to evade their responsibilities and deny the scale of the problem in light of this judgement, which emphasises the serious problems their mismanagement of the site continues to cause across the Borough. Once again, I call upon the operator to apologise, take full ownership of the issue, and set out what reparations they intend to make to the community.
“I will be speaking to the newly-reappointed Environment Secretary George Eustice MP about how Defra intends to challenge the EA in light of the stark findings as soon as possible.”