Decision-making on controversial plans for a waste incinerator should be taken out of the city council’s hands and dealt with by a planning inquiry, says a Leeds MP.
Leeds East Labour MP George Mudie fears people will perceive the council – which is the planning authority – has a conflict of interest because it stands to lose financially if permission is rejected.
The council wants to build a power-generating incinerator at the former wholesale market in Cross Green to burn household waste that cannot be recycled.
It has chosen Veolia ES Aurora Ltd to build and operate the plant and the company has submitted a planning application, due to be determined by the council’s city plans panel next spring.
But it emerged earlier this year that the council could have to pay £930,000 to the firm if the contract has to be terminated because of planning failure. The figure was contained in a confidential report presented to senior councillors earlier, although Veolia insist the sum would be nowhere near £1m.
Coun Mudie wants the planning application to be “called in” by Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles and deal with by a public inquiry.
He intends to raise the issue with Tom Riordan, the council’s chief executive.
He said: “I am going to write to Mr Riordan saying I don’t think the council should deal with the planning side of this because of the impression people have that the council has a direct financial interest in the scheme being agreed.”
Coun Mudie is also arguing that the council has chosen an unsuitable site for the plant because the nearest homes are only 300m away.
He said: “It is obscenely near houses. To place this so close to a working class area that doesn’t have the best of things anyway is wrong.”
Mr Mudie suggested an incinerator Biffa is proposing to build at the former Skelton Grange power station should also be used for the city’s household rubbish.
The council has insisted the compensation issue will not compromise the planning process in any way.
A spokeswoman for Leeds City Council said: “The part of the council that acts as the planning authority must work independently from the part of the council procuring the incinerator, the waste disposal authority.
“The planning authority will only consider planning-related matters when deciding on the planning application. The matter of compensation if Veolia fail to secure planning permission will therefore not compromise the planning process in any way.
“It should also be noted that Veolia are responsible for gaining planning permission. They have to demonstrate that they’ve made all reasonable endeavours to submit a sound application and secure permission before contractual clauses about compensation kick in.
“It’s standard with these types of contracts for compensation to be paid if the applicant is refused planning permission through no fault of their own, as they will incur costs.”