PARISH councillors in Widnes have said the local authority should be stripped of its planning powers after permission for a controversial waste transfer and treatment facility was overturned by a High Court judge.

Waste giants Veolia ES UK Ltd had their eyes on a site off Pickering's Road, which was formerly used by a demolition contractor and scrap metal company.

The plan for a change in site use was approved by Halton Borough Council in January - but this week that decision was overturned by Mrs Justice Lieven.

If it had gone ahead, Veolia would have been able to transport 85,000 tonnes of commercial and industrial waste and 40,000 tonnes of construction, demolition and excavation materials annually through Hale Bank, with up to 150 extra vehicles on the village roads every day, 90 of those being HGVs.

Hale Bank Parish Council blasted the local authority's planning department as 'not fit for purpose' for granting planning permission.

A spokesperson for Halton Borough Council said the authority would implement the judge's decision and the application would have to be considered by the planning committee again.

A Veolia spokesperson said the proposed site had been specifically chosen "to avoid inconvenience to the local community and improve sustainability" adding that the application had been handed back to the Council to redetermine.

Hale Bank Parish Council's acting chairman, Cllr Kieran Reed, said: "This is not a time for celebration.

"This decision should never have been made by Halton Council in the first place.

"Parish councillors attended the meeting where this decision was made and we told Halton to approve it would be unlawful and they carried on regardless."

Cllr Reed explained the Hale Bank site was not listed in the Joint Waste Development Plan – a legal planning agreement between Halton Council and five other Merseyside authorities, Liverpool, Wirral, St Helens, Knowsley and Sefton – as one to be used for a waste transfer station.

He continued: "It beggars belief that Halton signed up to this with the other authorities and then chose to ignore it.

"This is just one of the reasons we will be writing to the Secretary of State for housing, communities and local government to demand Halton loses its planning powers.

"We believe they are a disgrace and make their decisions based purely on economic need, riding rough shod over planning laws."

It is the third occasion Hale Bank Parish Council has been forced to take Halton to court via the judicial review process for unlawful planning decisions.

Cllr Reed added: "Given their shocking track record, we will be asking the Government Minister to prevent Halton from continuing with current their local plan.

"In our opinion, based on a fair bit of evidence, they are simply not to be trusted."

Halton Council's local plan the DALP (Delivery and Allocations Local Plan) is currently awaiting inspection by a Government appointed planning inspector following two rounds of public consultation.

Cllr Reed added: "Halton want to take virtually all of the greenbelt out of our village for housing.

"There is no infrastructure in place for this in terms of roads, facilities and shops.

"Plus our area is sandwiched between two top tier COMAH sites, one of which Halton’s planners conveniently left off their consultation map.

"The people of Hale Bank have had enough of this behaviour and it is totally wrong and unfair that they should be forced to engage in costly legal battles time and time again because of Halton Council's legal decisions.

"It has to stop."

The Halton Borough Council spokesperson said: "The Council will implement the judge’s decision, the effect of which is to quash the existing planning permission.

"This now means that the planning application will require consideration again by the Local Planning Authority.

"The judgement centres around a technical assessment of a policy within the Waste Local Plan and the level of information provided to the planning committee at the time of considering the application.

"This will need to be addressed when that re-consideration takes place."

A Veolia spokesperson said: "Following the outcome of the Judicial Review we will study the decision of the Court carefully.

"The transfer station at Pickerings Road is designed to reduce the number and length of HGV waste movements and the site we have selected has been specifically chosen to avoid inconvenience to the local community and improve sustainability.

"The Court has passed the application back to the Council to redetermine and we will make them aware of the environmental case in favour of the development."