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Watchdog: planning a barrier to organic waste treatment

Planning has been highlighted by the Office of Fair Trading as a significant barrier to greater competition between water and waste companies to build organic waste treatment plants dealing with sewage sludge (SS).

The competition watchdog identified this as a key issue in a report looking at ways of boosting schemes which treat organic waste so it can be used to generate power or produce bio-gas.

The report noted “waste companies appear to experience more problems when obtaining planning permission for optimally located and/or scale efficient treatment sites unless these are co-located with existing water and sewerage facilities”.

According to the OFT analysis the planning system favours expansion of existing sewage sludge treatment facilities over building new ones.

The watchdog’s report also pointed out that water company facilities were seen by communities as “essential” whereas projects from waste management companies were seen as commercial operations.

“Local communities are more likely to support planning operations when they are made by water and sewerage companies and involve expanding existing facilities or building new facilities,” said the report.

It added: “Water and sewerage companies may have an advantage over waste companies as they already possess a large number of sites where SS treatment facilities already exist. This could therefore prevent or make it very difficult for waste businesses to build facilities to compete with water and sewerage companies to treat sewage sludge.”

Read the OFT press release.

 

Roger Milne

29 September 2011