The issue of odour from this landfill site is one which I take very seriously - it has always been my top local priority. Indeed, I was asked about the landfill at my selection meeting by Derrick Huckfield and it has been on my agenda since then. Since being elected in December 2019, I have held many meetings with local campaigners, the Environment Agency, and Red Industries Limited in an attempt to find a solution.
Clearly, this is affecting the quality of life of a number of my constituents, and the situation is not fair or right.
In September, I wrote to the Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, to request that they undertake a new monitoring exercise. It is clear that their most recent monitoring report, published in December 2019, does not enjoy public confidence. I am therefore pleased that the EA has now reversed their position on this, and announced that a new Air Quality Monitoring exercise will be conducted over the next 3 months. The exercise will be based out of two sites, one of which will be located in the grounds of the Severn Trent Pumping Station off Galingale View, with the second location to be confirmed shortly. I welcome this decision, especially as it has been clear that the smell has been worse than ever since Christmas. I am hopeful that this step will finally provide scientific proof of what we can all smell with our noses - that the landfill stinks. However, I am keen to ensure that this new report definitively identifies the source of the smell – previous reports have dodged this issue despite the landfill being a clear and obvious cause.
I am pleased that the Environment Agency have been able to confirm a significant breach as well as other breaches of Red Industries’ permit. I have written an open letter to Red Industries asking them to outline, as soon as possible, what measures they are going to take to alleviate the ongoing odour, and also set out what compensation they plan to offer affected residents, businesses and institutions such as schools.
I have met with the Environment multiple times in the past few months regarding the odour; they acknowledge that the problem is now at a different level and that they will closely monitor Red Industries’ actions to resolve the breaches.
I am also in contact with many local organisations about the matter including schools and campaign groups. I have met with Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, who have had representations from institutions such as the Royal Stoke Hospital and Keele University and will be convening a meeting with them and others. I was also happy to convey the concerns of residents, businesses and institutions in the evidence I gave to Newcastle Borough Council’s extraordinary meeting about Walley’s Quarry landfill on Thursday 18th March. At that meeting Newcastle Borough Council discussed the scrutiny review working party report on the landfill.
I have also been pressing the case for action in Westminster. I have met with the Prime Minister and he has understood the need for action, and directed his civil servants accordingly.
On 9th March I brought forward a motion in the Commons to introduce a Bill to regulate odorous emissions from landfills. I hope this will put pressure on the relevant bodies in order to find a solution. You can watch my speech in two parts on my Facebook page.
On 13th April I raised the issue with the Secretary of State to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). In my question, I noted that many residents have concerns about their physical and mental health and asked what assessment the Secretary of State has made of the landfill’s risk to public health. I am pleased that the Secretary of State has agreed to meet with me on the matter. I will be meeting with the Environment Agency once again later this week. You can watch my question to the Secretary of State on my Facebook page.
I have submitted a number of written questions to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to try and obtain some data about the number of complaints being made in a national context. I recently spoke with the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Minister, Rebecca Pow. I outlined my concerns with the enforcement actions so far and the lack of response from the EA. I stressed the need to address the underlying issue which has grown considerably in the last six months. I have also met with senior advisors at DEFRA, to discuss how some of my ideas from my 10 Minute Rule Bill could be incorporated into a Government Bill.
I will continue to work with all relevant bodies and with residents in search of a solution.