PROPOSALS for an ambitious £50million redevelopment of a controversial landfill site have been revealed.
About 500 jobs could be created as Houghton Landfill is closed within the next five years and operator Biffa transforms the plot into a business park.
The waste management firm announced earlier this year it would close the site, after originally applying to continue landfill operations there until 2028.
The rethink on its future follows concerns raised by residents about the plans to extend its use as a dump for waste, which led Sunderland City Council to ask it to come up with an alternative use for the land.
Pressure group Residents Against Toxic Site (Rats), which has long campaigned for the closure of the landfill, has given the plans a lukewarm reception.
In a planning application submitted to the council, Biffa says it will create an “employment park, providing sustainable office and light industry space for up to 500 workers”.
Biffa’s senior planner, Mike Harty, said: “This major investment represents Biffa’s commitment to listening to our neighbours and the council.
“Our revised proposal will not only reduce the amount of waste landfilled by over one million cubic metres but importantly it will also mean an end to the landfilling of general waste as we will infill the quarry base with inert wastes only to provide a development platform for a sustainable employment park, benefitting local residents and bringing an end to landfill operations in approximately five years.”
The proposal includes plans to accept inert waste only, such as rubble, stones and bricks for five years, which will be used to form a platform for the new development.
The firm added that about 50 construction jobs will be created to construct the business park.
The company say the project will put 4.8 hectares of previously developed land into productive use, with offices, industrial units, a car park and new access roads part of the scheme.
Forms of renewable energy, including solar panels, would also be installed on the park.
Independent councillor Colin Wakefield, who is spokesman for pressure group Rats, said he was sceptical about 500 jobs being created in the town.
The group says it has an adverse effect on the Houghton community and should have been shut years ago.
Coun Wakefield, who represents the Copt Hill ward, said: “The plans are obviously much better than what has gone on for the previous 16 years, but people are rightfully suspicious of Biffa’s intentions.
“My personal view is that the site could be used a lot better.
“It’s a time for imagination and for Biffa to repay the residents a bit, maybe by creating a recreational space.
“It’s certainly better than what we have suffered for the last 16 years ,though.”
Rats also say they have expressed concerns to the council about the length of the consultation into the plans, which ends on Wednesday, December 19, saying that it is not long enough.
The proposals are available to view at www.sunderland.gov.uk