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Sides set for waste dump battle

THE long-awaited public inquiry into plans to create Britain's first underground waste dump has started.

THE long-awaited public inquiry into plans to create Britain's first underground waste dump has started.

Minosus, the company behind the scheme to dump millions of tonnes of toxic waste into Winsford Rock Salt Mine, will fight the inquiry with an expensively assembled legal team and panel of experts, headed by QC Rhodri Price Lewis.

In contrast, Moulton-based protest group RAMP Residents Against Mine Pollution will be forced to present evidence from members of the community, with little technical expertise, in its bid to stop controversial scheme going ahead.

In a tense courtroom atmosphere at Wyvern House, solicitor Mr Price Lewis, of Eldon Chambers, London, confidently set out Minosus' case, while RAMP's representative Robert Lawrenson looked nervous as he introduced the protest group's representations.

Mr Lawrenson revealed the group did not have any expert witnesses to give evidence against the scheme.

RAMP had assembled a team of experts to fight its case, but it had to be disbanded when the protest group's coffers ran dry.

However, the weight of local opinion is behind the underdogs. More than 3,000 letters of objection to the scheme have been submitted to the Secretary of State. Planning inspector Andrew Mead who will ultimately hand his report to Secretary of State John Prescott will preside over the investigation.

Over the next three to four weeks, the inquiry will hear evidence from Minosus, Cheshire County Council, the Environment Agency, Vale Royal Borough Council and the protest group.

Concerned residents and groups such as Friends of the Earth, will also be given the opportunity to speak.

Minosus is first to give evidence and as the Chronicle went to press, Mr Price Lewis started his opening statement.

He said: 'Our case is that this project is safe for the people who live in the area and work in the mine.

'It will have no unacceptable impact on people's enjoyment of their homes and neighbourhood, will not harm water supplies, will not harm the countryside or its enjoyment, is in accordance with the development plan policies for the area, will not cause traffic problems and will create employment in the area.'

The results of the inquiry are expected to be made public in January.

- The Chronicle will be following the progress of the inquiry.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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