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Leigh Environmental Ltd

Volume 168: debated on Wednesday 28 February 1990

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[ Mr. Fallon.]

9.47 pm

I had given notice, Mr. Speaker, that I would present a petition before the Adjournment debate.

I understand, Mr. Speaker, that that means that at 10 pm my Adjournment debate will be interrupted by a petition.

The subject that I am introducing for the Adjournment debate concerns the Leigh Environmental plant at Killamarsh. It is not new to the House as I raised the matter previously on 13 March 1989 in a debate on the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill, entitled, "North-East Derbyshire (Environmental Regeneration)". It is one of the vast number of environmental problems in my constituency. The Ministry has received numerous letters from me on the matter and I have tabled various parliamentary questions.

I have been seeking the opportunity to raise the matter in an Adjournment debate for some time. It directly affects the interests of a wide section of my constituents and people in neighbouring constituencies to the north of the plant as many people from my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) use the Rother Valley country park.

The background to the development of the Leigh Environmental plant at Killamarsh is that initially it was the site of a tar distillation plant. That is of some significance as some of the later developments on that site made use of planning permissions that were given to the tar distillation plant and were rather inappropriate to the new methods and technologies that were later introduced.

The current style of operations began with a firm called Polymeric Treatments Ltd. which is generally known as Polymerics. Polymerics is a branch of Leigh Interests plc. The transfer of its name to Leigh Environmental is merely a transfer within the same company.

Although the Rother Valley country park is to the north of the plant, the rest of the area surrounding the site is a housing estate with some 1,000 residents. The Norwood estate was built in the days of the tar distillation plant without any knowledge of the operations at Leigh Environmental. Had it been the other way around, the new planning conditions laid upon Leigh Environmental would have been much stricter.

Leigh Environmental claims to move waste anywhere in the country between Aberdeen and Plymouth. Although the Leigh Environmental site at Killamarsh is not the largest of the Leigh Environmental operations, it is centrally situated. About 75 people are employed there, but many of them are drivers, and therefore are at the plant only for limited periods as they are involved in the network of Leigh Environmental activities around the country.

Leigh Interests plc, the parent company, has 73 subsidiaries of which Leigh Environmental Ltd. and Polymeric Treatments Ltd. are but two. It has subsidiaries in Switzerland, Canada and the United States. Although it might not be one of the largest companies in the country, it is large in terms of waste disposal and has multinational interests. In 1987 its sales were £43 million which represented £50,000 per worker in Leigh Interests plc. About 10 per cent. of that was profit, so the profit per worker in 1987 was some £5,000, and that figure has obviously been increased by inflation.

The plant's current processes are waste disposal, with permission for landfill at one of the lagoons remaining from the days of the tar distillation plant; solvent recovery, which has caused many complaints about smells and emissions; garaging and maintenance; storage and transit of waste, and there is some problem about what is being stored in the area; and chemical incineration, which produces particular problems.

The incinerators that are at Killamarsh were used first in Nottinghamshire, where they caused many problems for the hon. Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart). They were purchased from Berridge Incinerators of Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, and they were used for 10 years without planning permission. That led to smells, the destruction of plant life and smoke emissions. Those problems were ended only by Nottinghamshire county council taking High Court action.

Those incinerators are now operating at Killamarsh. They were installed under planning permission given for the tar distillation plant to use Lancashire boilers, which had a lower capacity and were intended for entirely different operations. Derbyshire county council has sought to restrict the incinerators' hours of use, but the company has appealed against that and still uses them until about 10 pm.

That hazard in Killamarsh began at roughly the same time as a former hazard that considerably affected my constituents was removed. That hazard was the practice of breaking open transformers to dislodge polychlorinated biphenyls which were then taken to other plants for incineration.

The local community is concerned about safety and has complained about smells from the airborne emissions, the discharge of chemicals from plant into the sewers and irritation of the skin and burning of the eyes.

Before my hon. Friend leaves the problems of his constituents who live nearby, will he comment on the fact that in some circumstances ratepayers would be able to claim a rate rebate because that plant is so close, but under the poll tax they will be unable to take advantage of that, although they may be saving only a small amount of money?

It is often difficult to claim a rate rebate because of the reduction in rateable values. I shall refer later to when I lived beside the Dronfield-Unstone bypass. When it was being constructed I was given a temporary rate rebate because of the problems that it caused. Such rebates will be ended by the poll tax regime. Whereas in the past people may have been given rate rebates for problems such as opencast mining or mining subsidence, they will not be available under the poll tax. I shall seek to discuss the democratic and constitutional implications of the poll tax in a later Adjournment debate.

The first incident at Killamarsh with which I was associated was the 1986 explosion, which Leigh Environmental described as a fire. The fire and explosion destroyed part of a building housing an aerosol recovery plant. The firm was prosecuted by the factory inspector under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 for failing to maintain the safety of its employees. In court, the inspector said:
"Here was an accident waiting to happen."
The firm was fined £1,500—the maximum penalty that could be imposed was £2,000—so the court showed its displeasure by making that decision.

It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment lapsed, without Question put.