A bid from Hills Waste Solutions to keep its materials recovery facility at Lower Compton has been referred to the secretary of state for communities and local government.

The materials recovery facility near Calne is used to sort household waste and collect recyclable materials which are then shipped off elsewhere.

An application to extend and enhance the facility, as well as to make it permanent, was originally submitted in 2012 but a decision on this has not been made.

In January Hills also submitted three new applications to permanently retain the existing setup and current useage, which have now been referred to communities secretary Eric Pickles.

A statement from Hills said this was due to a disagreement with Wiltshire Council over the need for an environmental impact assessment.

It said: “Three linked applications to vary planning conditions on the Lower Compton materials recycling facility (MRF) to permit it to be retained beyond 2016 were submitted by Hills Waste Solutions in December 2013.

“Just prior to the expiry of the determination period for the application the planning officer at Wiltshire Council decided that retaining the MRF has the potential for significant environmental impact and issued a Screening Decision that this was an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) development.

“Hills Waste Solutions does not agree that retaining the MRF is likely to give rise to a significant environmental impact and has therefore used the option of seeking the Secretary of State’s view on whether or not an EIA is required in this situation.

“A decision is expected in mid May from the Secretary of State.”

Kate Morley, a Calne Without parish councillor, said residents were in no doubt that there would be an environmental impact as a result of the operations at Lower Compton.

She said: “Local reaction to these three new applications is that they should form an entirely new application with the appropriate full publicity and consultation, rather than appearing as simply removing conditions on existing permissions.

“At the time the original temporary application was granted in 1997, it was anticipated the MRF would have a capacity of 6,000 to 10,000 tonnes per annum. It currently has a capacity of 38,000 tonnes per annum which equates to a percentage increase in vehicles delivering to the site of 1100 per cent.”

Wiltshire councillor Alan Hill said: “It’s just frustrating that we cannot get to a resolution of this ongoing sword of Damocles hanging over our heads.

“I agree with the assessment of the planning department that an EIA is required in order to know what in fact the continued use of the facility on a permanent basis will actually have on the community.”