25 Nov 2011

Stroud callss GCC to stop plan for a monster incinerator

One of many protests July 2011
Last night the Full Council meeting went on till 11.20pm ish - I will cover the Core Strategy stuff tomorrow if I get a chance - sadly the incinerator debate didn't start until about 10.50pm but the good news is that the Green/Lib Dem motion (see below) was passed unanimously! Tories supported it although it conflicts with Tory County policy. This means Stroud District have called on the County to pause their decision re an incinerator.

As regular blog readers will know the County are currently going through a selection process defined by the EU for large public projects. They are at the stage of two final bidders, and at this stage there is no obligation to award a contract. Even with a selected final bidder they still have to get planning permission and Javelin Park has to be in the Waste Local Plan which is due out in January. The County could, however, still vote it through at full council in January and commit to a conditional contract straight afterwards. But what this motion sought was a reconsideration of Mass Burn Incineration or MBI for short. This contract will be the single most expensive the County Council has ever negotiated. We need to get it right.

Already Cheltenham Borough have passed a similar motion so there is now very clearly voices saying no to the County. If the County decide not to go ahead with Incineration they will have to start the whole process again. This would mean a delay of perhaps 18 months  - this is undesirable but it is surely better to get it right and not make a very expensive mistake.

As the brief debate showed there are many reasons why MBI is just not the right choice. I've argued elsewhere on this blog about that but had wanted to make several points in the debate last night. Sadly a large number of councillors found the meeting too late and wanted to get home - I can't blame them but we did miss an opportunity to debate more fully - the Chair went to the vote before my turn to speak when it was clear there was cross-party support for the motion.

Labour added an amendment to the incinerator motion - not sure I got precise wording but roughly "SDC will explore the option of alternative routes for disposal of its waste if GCC continues with its reckless proposal for a MBI." Cllr Debbie Young requested a change of wording to "will continue to explore" on basis of SDC's work to date on AD and asked for removal of "reckless" on grounds of continuing to need to work with GCC on AD. Changes were agreed by all.

Sadly the debate did contain some misinformation e.g. one councillor saying the fly ash would be sent to Wingmoor Farm, which both bidders have said they won't do. There were also unanswered questions - I was hoping to note the 204 lorry movements forecast for the site.

There is so much more we could have said to add to the case about why we need to relook at it. Even the Appointed Inspector in his letter regarding the Waste Core Strategy suggested there were a number of unanswered questions. For example he says: "On the evidence that I have read so far, I consider it far from certain that Javelin Park, Wingmoor Farm West and, especially, Wingmoor Farm East will be developed as set out in the Plan." He also says "I am not clear why a dispersed pattern was dismissed" - indeed there is a strong argument for several smaller flexible solutions which cut transport costs - these don't seem to have been considered fully despite many of us arguing for them.

Last month there was also a report by Eunomia suggesting that Britain may have an oversupply of residual waste treatment infrastructure by 2020. I understand Gloucestershire’s PFI funding was withdrawn for the very same reason. The economics don't stack up well. The MBI contract is for 25 years with an option of a 5 or 10 year extension; who knows what waste technology will be around then? It is not a flexible solution like other technologies like Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) so what happens if waste streams drop? 20 years ago we could not have forecast current waste levels. Many of us consider rising prices in fossil fuels and metals will lead to very different ways of dealing with our waste. Indeed it is crazy to be burning valuable resources - many know the example that the energy required to recover a tonne of aluminium from waste is a mere fraction of the energy required to extract a tonne from mined bauxite.

Tory Nick Herbert MP has spoken in favour of tax on incineration; this would make the economics of incineration even more costly and uncertain. Furthermore the Conservatives “Quality of Life” report a couple of years ago says “a ban should be established by 2012 on the incineration of any untreated biodegradable and recyclable waste (i.e. waste which has not passed through a pre-treatment process)”. Will that still be considered?

I welcome the County's aspiration for 70% recycling across the county - in some ways a hard target but there is evidence that 80% are achievable. MBI does not offer us the flexibility we need.

There was talk at the meeting about the impact emissions will have on crops and the area. In terms of the emissions from an MBI it is clear expert opinion is divided. A 2008 report by the British Society of Ecological Medicine, for example suggested an expectation of very significant numbers of addition cancers within 7.5km of a typical EfW plant. We have seen similar debates in the past over tobacco and asbestos. However more importantly perhaps is the public perception of the health issue. Surely this is a factor that should be considered?

Lastly for this blog we could have also drawn attention more to public opinion - it seems very clear to me that the vast majority are against this - anyway in one part of the consultation in 2009 the results suggested said that in the trade-off between environmental, flexibility and cost factors the public rated them all about equal ie:
Environmental factors the most important (98% of respondents)
Flexibility second most important(91%)
Costs were the least important (89%).
However the unpublished report showed that under “very important”, respondents actually rated:

Environmental factors as most important (70%)
Cost and flexibility at 35% each.

The County’s published figures are a sum of the “most important” and “important” results in each category which in my view makes nonsense of what the public said. Anyway we can only hope now that our county councillors listen.

Click Read More for the Motion on Incineration Proposals

Stroud District Council notes the decision of Cheltenham Borough Council (a Waste Collection Authority) to call on Gloucestershire County Council for a pause in the project to build a Mass Burn Incinerator at Javelin Park. The Council supports that call and requests Gloucestershire County Council, as part of the Waste Management Strategy of reducing landfill and increasing recycling, to make a transparent assessment of other waste management technologies, as alternatives to the two incinerator schemes which are currently being considered.

Further, the Council notes that there are viable modern alternatives to mass incineration of domestic waste, which have economic advantage both in the short-term and overall lifecycle costs, are more environmentally friendly, and are compatible with the planned future improved recycling rates across the County. Some of these technologies are more resilient in terms of changes to overall waste volume, transport costs and a possible future incineration tax.

Therefore Stroud District Council calls upon Gloucestershire County Council to provide a full economic, health, and environmental impact assessment of Mass Burn Incineration in comparison to other technological solutions, including Mechanical Biological Treatment, and to ensure that the comparisons between the different residual waste technologies are demonstrated, scrutinised and debated in public.

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