Agenda item



(i)            That the contents of the update report be noted.


(ii)           That the call for a public inquiry into the regulatory performance of the Environment Agency be endorsed.



The Leader introduced a report on Walleys Quarry odours, stating that this was

the first Cabinet meeting since the revelations against the Environment Agency.


The Chief Executive presented the report and confirmed that there was still a downward trend of complaints to the Environment Agency (EA). 


The most significant news at the moment was the issue relating to the Air Quality data from the three monitoring stations placed around the area by the EA.  The EA had stated that the problems that had been encountered were not specific with Walleys Quarry but were a common problem with the monitoring stations generally. However, the stations needed to be regularly calibrated to ensure that they were recording the presence of various gases in the atmosphere and it had been identified that the calibration had not been done correctly.  As a consequence of this, Hydrogen Sulphide had been understated. 


Colleagues from the EA were working with experts in that area and the manufacturers of the machines to see if it was possible to identify the scale of under reporting.


The data that would be published in November would be from a properly calibrated machine.


A significant issue was that agencies had been relying on the data for advice.  Improvements at Walleys Quarry had stood under three elements:  Progress of the action on site to contain, capture and destroy the gasses; the complaint data and the Hydrogen Sulphide data. 


The other significant issue for the community was the health impact from this news.  It was known that there were short term implications to exposure but there was also a significant mental health impact.


The Leaders of Newcastle Borough Council and Staffordshire County Council  had jointly written to DEFRA and the Secretary of State for the Environment had been contacted asking for a Public Inquiry into the issues with the EA.


The Leader stated that it was disappointing to see that the information that had been considered previously by Cabinet had not been correct and had been under reported.  The Leader stated that there had been comments at meetings and on social media that the Council should have known that the data was incorrect through the monitoring that had been done with the Council’s hand held devices.  The Chief Executive stated that the equipment used by the Council and that used by the EA were completely different and used in different ways.  The EA’s equipment was fixed and provided a long term view whereas handheld devices would be at different times.


The Portfolio Holder for Strategic Planning welcomed the call for a public inquiry and that it asked to look into the overall effectiveness of the EA. 


The Portfolio Holder for Finance, Town Centres and Growth agreed and stated that he was not completely surprised as the dealings with the EA had been so bad.


Resolved:                              (i)       That the contents of the update report be



(ii)          That the call for a public inquiry into the regulatory performance of the Environment Agency be endorsed.


Watch the debate here

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