PROPOSALS for a new facility dealing with clinical waste have been approved despite more than 100 letters of concern.

This week, Durham County Council’s county planning committee discussed plans for a new development at Enterprise City within Spennymoor’s Green Lane Industrial Estate.

Sharpsmart Ltd is headquartered at the site and specialises in the distribution and collection of clinical waste bins for the NHS.

Bins are washed and stored for re-use, with the contents transferred to bulk containers for disposal elsewhere.

The firm runs several regional facilities in England and recently expanded from unit 44 to the adjacent Enterprise Point One in Spennymoor, using the building for distribution and storage.

Under new plans, the firm aimed to invest in new technology and equipment at the site to sterilise clinical waste before it is transported.

This included a three-stage treatment process of shredding, thermal treatment and compaction.

A report prepared for councillors stated there would be no direct emissions from an autoclave unit, which uses high pressure steam to sterilise items, with all waste stored in sealed containers.

The facility would also be regulated by an Environment Agency permit with regular checks in place.

According to an applicant statement, no anatomical waste, chemicals or highly infectious materials would be processed on site.

However, the proposals sparked opposition with 134 neighbour letters raising issues related to emissions impacting on air quality, odour, treatment of waste and impact on house prices.

The potential impact of noise from the processing plant and delivery vehicles were also a concern, alongside increased vehicle movements.

Planning officers said the concern had likely been caused by the description of the development – despite Sharpsmart Ltd carrying out clinical waste transfer activities for more than 15 years at the adjoining unit.

The application was discussed at Tuesday’s virtual planning meeting, which was held via videolink and broadcast on YouTube.

Technical manager at Sharpsmart Ltd, Karl Sheehan, said the proposals would result in reduced waste transport costs while creating long-term jobs for the region.

“To support the local NHS and the healthcare sector in the North East, Sharpsmart are looking to invest in our Spennymoor facility with new equipment and technologies for the safe processing of certain healthcare wastes,” he said.

“This sustainable process allows waste to be rendered non-hazardous by the means of steam treatment, the resultant material is then used as an alternative to fossil fuels in power stations.

“There are currently no facilities in the region permitted to do this which results in the waste from the local hospital being transported hundreds of miles for processing and disposal at an additional cost to the local NHS.”

Councillors heard that the company wants to have a “working relationship with the local area to discuss any concerns” and was willing to have open days with residents.

To reduce impact on neighbours, the firm also agreed to divert waste vehicles away from Arlington Avenue and to remove gate alarms and audible reversal alarms for HGVs.

Council planners recommended the plans for approval, stating the potential impacts of the development had been “fully assessed and found to be acceptable, subject to conditions where appropriate.”

In a report, planners added the proposals would “provide for the continued operation and expansion of a well established clinical waste management facility.”

During debate, councillor John Clare raised questions about the volume of liquid effluent produced and its safety.

Sharpsmart Ltd bosses confirmed the effluent was essentially ‘condensed steam from a wash process’ and was non-hazardous.

Councillor Ivan Jewell added: “I feel that there are quite stringent conditions associated with this application and I think this probably mitigates any of the fears that local residents have.”

Following discussion, the plans were approved by a unanimous vote.