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Letter to Cornwall Councillors

Dear Cllr

I notice that you will be discussing the Waste Contract at the next Cabinet Meeting. One of the phrases that has been flying about concerning the incinerator debacle is "We are where we are". Therefore I think it is important to realise "where we are".

1) Mr. Justice Collins ruled that the Secretary of State and the Inspector acted unlawfully with regard to the Public Inquiry, and by so doing prevented a legitimate challenge to the EA figures and the lack of Appropriate Assessment of possible environmental damage. This means that no Planning Permission exists for the Incinerator site, staff and materials must be removed and the Council is left with a bill of nearly £500,000 for work done "at risk".

2) Justice Collins has given the Secretary of State the chance to Appeal (on a very narrow issue of law), or to conduct an Appropriate Assessment. If the SoS decides to follow both courses of action he must do them one after the other which will produce a time lag of eight months at least. This will take the delay beyond the June 2012 deadline for £250,000 to be paid to Imerys as compensation.

3) It now transpires that Cornwall Council is responsible for SITA's legal costs. These have already been incurred in The High Court of Justice and will be increased by action in the Court of Appeal and possibly eventually in the Supreme Court. Be assured that Cornwall Waste Forum will pursue this to the Supreme Court themselves if necessary. The delay caused by the SoS taking this action could extend the matter for a number of years.

4) In their defence case, SITA stated that if the matter was not resolved by 31st December 2011, then the European Investment Bank would withdraw their offer of a loan for the incinerator. As it stands, either possible decision by the Secretary of State will take four months which will be beyond this date.

5) The Cornwall Waste Forum is already preparing papers for the European Commission DG Environment on the grounds of failure to apply the EU Habitats Directive.

6) SITA have had to change the company supplying the furnaces and other structures for the Incinerator because the original supplier dropped out because of reasons unknown. The new company's technology has not been tested by the EA and may require a new permit before it can be installed. Under extreme circumstances (such as change of stack height,) it may need new planning permission. The lack of suitable reference plants raises doubts on its fitness under PFI rules for the technology choice of the main contractor.

7) Private Companies in Cornwall are seeking Planning Permission to build facilities which will treat a large part of the Commercial and Industrial waste on which the Incinerator will rely if the household waste continues to decline at the current rate. This will mean that the only alternative that SITA will have is to truck waste in from out of County. An example of a private project is at Hallenbeagle for which planning application has been recently submitted for detailed permission, against an effective outline permission for a waste sorting plant of 140,000tpa capacity.

8) Several other Local Authorities have gone down the route of sorting the residual waste to remove high value recycling and then to digest the biodegradable fraction to produce energy. The small amount of residue is then dealt with in the best way possible. This is a totally feasible option for Cornwall, but is currently being prevented by the existing waste contract. This even includes putting simple MRFs into HWRCs.

We can see no alternative but to end the contract and use a suitable 21st century solution to manage Cornwall's waste.


Ken Rickard,
Chair of Cornwall Waste Forum St.Dennis Branch.