Blasting plans approved at controversial landfill site

Aerial view of Houghton Landfill site
Aerial view of Houghton Landfill site
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CONTROVERSIAL plans to allow blasting work at a landfill site have been approved, to the anger of its neighbours.

Sunderland councillors backed an application by waste management firm Biffa to detonate charges at a 100-metre stretch of Houghton Landfill.

Biffa bosses submitted a planning application to use explosives to clear a section of rock it said posed a threat to the health and safety of its workers.

With planning committee members split equally on the proposal, casting vote went to chairman Philip Tye, who passed the motion.

This led to angry boos and catcalls from those gathered in the public gallery.

A report compiled for Sunderland City Council’s planning committee recommended approving the plans, subject to a number of environmental conditions being satisfied.

But councillors and residents representing the pressure group Residents Against Toxic Site (RATS), who have long campaigned for the site’s closure, argued the move could damage nearby properties and cause ecological problems.

Biffa said just one blast would be enough to clear the unsafe limestone rocks and other methods such as netting or bolting them in place were unsuitable.

An independent review carried out by consulting engineers WA Fairhurst & Partners for the city council backed the waste firm.

Resident Olive Miller, of Houghton Road in Newbottle, told the 16 members: “They are going to blow this in one go. They will demolish our homes.

“It’s just not right.”

Mike Harty, project planning manager for Biffa, told the meeting this week that blast demolition experts would be tackling the job, which must be done as soon as possible.

“If we don’t do this blast now and keep having more delays, and we have been trying to do this for two years, the longer it goes on, the more dangerous it will be,” he said.

“It will come down on its own. It’s going to do that. It is a fact of physics. If we don’t do it this way, it will be worse in the long run. It will take more than one blast and bigger blasts.”

And he assured residents living nearby that the controlled blasting would not damage their homes.

Speaking after the meeting, Independent leader and RATS member Coun Colin Wakefield hit out at the decision.

He said: “It’s absolutely disgusting. It don’t suppose anybody is going to be very pleased.

“I think they will blow it and it will be so loose they will have to dig it out.

“They do whatever they want.”

A spokesman for the company said: “The application was blast a section of dangerous rock face to make it safe.

“Biffa can confirm that the committee supported the plans and the work will proceed as outlined.”

Twitter: @janethejourno