CONTROVERISAL Houghton Quarry landfill site is to close 15 years early.
Operator Biffa has dropped plans to operate the site until 2028, and now intends to end landfill operations there within the next six months.
The firm plans to level off the site and redevelop it as a business park.
Pressure group Residents Against Toxic Site (Rats) has been campaigning against the site or more than 10 years.
Rats spokesman Coun Colin Wakefield, said: “Rats cautiously welcome the news
“But after 15 years of fighting this environmental madness we will continue to fight until the many issues remaining and potential ones are resolved.
“We have long looked at how the quarry could be remodelled, should landfilling be halted and will continue to do so.
“But we must remember that the dangers from pollution from this site will be here for many years to come, and will need to be managed for at least the next 50 years, long after the site is closed.
“Millions of litres of drinking water are pumped from under the site every week.
“It is likely this will have to continue into the foreseeable future.”
He added: “Rats believe this is at last moving in the right direction for the people of Houghton.
“We will continue to ensure the final scheme for the site is done in the very best interests of the residents and will continue to put pressure the Environment Agency, Sunderland City Council, the European Commission, the UK government and Biffa Waste Services to ensure we get the best possible outcome from this change of direction on a site, which should never have been allowed in the first place.
“The Rats committee would like to thank residents for their support over what has been a very long time. We will continue to do so until we get what’s best for Houghton.”
Biffa says its plans for the site could create dozens of local jobs within the next five years.
Planning and permitting manager Jeff Rhodes said: “Earlier in 2012, we submitted plans to continue general waste landfill activities at Houghton Quarry until 2028.
“One reason for this was the reduction of waste going to landfill meaning the site would take longer to fill than originally anticipated.
“While we were aware of local concerns over the plans, we could not simply cease operations at the site and leave the void empty so we are, therefore, proposing an alternative use which we hope will be more acceptable to the local community.”
Biffa will apply to Sunderland City Council for planning permission for the new development, and to the Environment Agency to modify the site’s environmental permit.