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Landfill Sites: Odour — [Sir Christopher Chope in the Chair]

Part of Special Educational Needs: Isle of Wight – in Westminster Hall at 4:29 pm on 25th February 2020.

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Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 4:29 pm, 25th February 2020

I thank my right hon. Friend for her intervention, but I want to go on about landfill in particular, because we are desperately trying to reduce the amount going to landfill. The Environment Bill wants us to drive towards 65% municipal waste recycling by 2033, with no more than 10% going to landfill. I commend the people of the west midlands for assisting with that aim, because they only send 7.3% of their municipal waste to landfill. Aside from the issue being raised today, the west midlands is doing a good job.

Planning and deciding where landfill sites and waste facilities should go is very much a local decision. It is not a Government decision, but something to be talked about locally. If it is not considered a risk to the environment or to public health, it is very much for the local authorities to decide whether a site will be a statutory nuisance. It is for them to make these decisions when allocating sites.

I will move on to Walley’s Quarry landfill. Obviously, I sympathise with residents who have raised complaints about the odour. No landfill will ever be completely odour-free, but the level and type of odour arising from such operations should not cause offence. I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware that Walley’s Quarry landfill is operated under an environmental permit. Since 2005, it has been actively managed for municipal and industrial non-hazardous waste. Environmental permits of that type are regulated by the Environment Agency in England; to protect the environment and people, it sets the conditions for the permitted activities.

In response to odour complaints from my hon. Friend’s constituents, from July 2017 to February 2018 and again from January to June 2019, the Environment Agency undertook specialist continuous air quality monitoring, including for hydrogen sulphide: the typical rotten egg smell that we all remember from our chemistry lessons—I am sure you do, Sir Christopher. The monitoring undertaken in 2019 found emissions to be within all relevant health and air quality limits; hydrogen sulphide exceeded an odour limit above which complaints would be expected for just 1% of the monitoring period. Contrary to my hon. Friend’s information, the results of that monitoring are publicly available and were shared with Public Health England, which confirmed that the levels recorded were low and that it would not expect any long-term health consequences.