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+ Information sources on the South East Plan

Overview

Sussex could be swamped with five million tonnes of rubbish from London under new plans for dealing with the capital's growing mountain of waste. And it could make Veolia's proposal to turn Rock Common Quarry into a massive landfill site much harder to fight. The proposals have been made by the South East of England Regional Assembly, an unelected assembly which sits between Government and the elected County Councils and Unitary Authorities.

Under the proposals, London would be allowed to transfer 1.25 million tonnes a year to neighbouring counties over the next 20 years. Around a fifth would be brought to Sussex. The proposal, put forward in the draft South East Plan, has sparked outrage among environmentalists and town hall leaders already struggling to meet Government targets for reducing landfill. And it has prompted fears that councils will be unable to cope with the waste generated by the planned 58,000 new homes in Sussex over the next 20 years.

Council leaders have vowed to fight "tooth and nail" to stop the scheme. Frank Wilkinson, West Sussex County Council's cabinet member for strategic planning, said: "Having to deal with London's waste will undermine the council's efforts to deal with the county's own waste mountain. We simply do not have the capacity for this extra tonnage of waste. We shall be pointing out there are much more suitable sites elsewhere."

The South East Plan was drawn up by the Government's South East England Regional Assembly (SEERA). It provides a development and waste management framework for the region for the next 20 years. Its proposals include:

  • Allowing West Sussex to become a dumping ground for 2.6 million tonnes of waste generated by Londoners over the next 20 years - increasing the amount of landfill by more than a third.
  • Dumping 2.2 million tonnes of the capital's waste in East Sussex.
  • Hiring private contractors to identify potential sites for the rubbish, and transferring it there by lorry.

Neither county council would receive a penny for accepting the waste. Officials in West Sussex have been told landfill sites would have to be found for 1.6 million tonnes of London rubbish between now and 2015. A further one million tonnes would be tipped in the county between 2015 and 2025. This is on top of the 460,000 tonnes of waste the county council already recycles or disposes of each year.

Paddy Henry, a district councillor in Mid Sussex who campaigned against a proposed incinerator in Haywards Heath, said: "There's no question we're going to have to open another landfill site or an incinerator. That rubbish has to go somewhere. But it's a monstrous suggestion - are we going to be piling it up on the South Downs or something?"

The Waste Local Plan for West Sussex has pinpointed two sites which could increase their capacity, in Warnham and Thakeham, but councillors are against using either for London's rubbish.

SEERA is accepting responses to the South East Plan until June 23 when it will be handed to independent inspectors for review.