Cornwall Council is working hard to find appropriate ways to deal with Cornwall’s waste. The Council is in a position whereby it has an Integrated Waste Management Contract in place with SITA, some of which is not in the public domain for reasons of commercial confidentiality. The application for an Energy from Waste plant, required by that contract, will soon be going to Public Inquiry.
Cornwall Council would like to make as much information about the situation as publicly available as is possible and in a spirit of openness makes the following statement.
- Cornwall Council has two roles – as the Waste Disposal Authority and also the Planning Authority for Cornwall.
- In 2006, Cornwall County Council agreed a 30-year £427 million contract with SITA to deliver an Integrated Waste Management Contract. This specifically included the construction of a 240,000 tonne Energy from Waste plant at St Dennis (within the Central Cornwall Area of Search as identified in the Council’s 2002 Waste Local Plan).
- In March 2009, Cornwall County Council’s Planning Committee voted to refuse the application. The reasons for the refusal included the impact of the facility on the St Dennis area. SITA has since gone to appeal and the Public Inquiry will commence on 16th March 2010.
- The Contract includes a ‘long-stop date’ clause, which states that if works have not commenced on the Energy from Waste plant by the end of March 2010 Cornwall Council have the right to terminate the contract through a ‘force majeure’ (‘no fault’) mechanism, or to seek a revised project plan.
- SITA recently wrote to Cornwall Council to confirm that it would be unable to achieve the ‘long-stop date’ because following the Planning Inquiry the decision of the Secretary of State will not be available by the due date. Cornwall Council’s cabinet will therefore soon need to take the decision as to whether or not to terminate the contract or to ask for a Revised Project Plan. If the council terminated the contract it would need to meet the costs of all the facilities provide by SITA thus far, that would otherwise have been paid for over the length of the contract. This has been estimated to cost £30m.
- The Public Inquiry will assess whether the 240,000 tonne Energy from Waste proposal is appropriate, but SITA are starting discussions on the potential for alternative proposals (the “Revised Project Plan”). They are investigating whether this could be done in a way to address the reasons for refusal (eg. the impact of the Energy from Waste building, height of chimney, etc). SITA are in discussion with Cornwall Council’s Waste Disposal team in regard to this. At the same time, Cornwall Council’s Natural Resources Team is preparing to robustly defend the existing appeal.
- If the Public Inquiry rules in favour of the Council as the local planning authority and if it looks unlikely that a revised application would be successful, Cornwall Council would retain the right to terminate the Contract through ‘force majeure.’ The costs would remain at an estimated £30m.
- One option that is being considered by Cornwall Council is a smaller Energy from Waste plant that could be built within the scope of the Contract and related procurement rules, though a significant reduction in capacity would not be acceptable in terms of procurement. The Contract also allows for anaerobic digestion to be added to those provided through the Contract.
- Cornwall’s Waste Advisory Panel is looking at alternative ways to deal with Cornwall’s waste and there are two important things to note.
a) The current policy document in place at the moment is the 2002 Waste Local Plan which specifies the construction of a single, central Energy from Waste plant.
b) It also remains the case that any alternative scheme (e.g. with a different technology, a different location outside of the Central Cornwall Area of Search, etc) could not be agreed as a modification to the existing Contract due to procurement rules and would have to be part of a new procurement.
Three councillors from the China Clay Area, Dick Cole, Fred Greenslade and John Wood, have welcomed the fact that Cornwall Council have released a statement which makes further information publicly available about the proposed incinerator and the constraints of the Contract signed by Cornwall County Council in 2006. Key points include:
- The Cabinet of Cornwall Council now has the right to terminate the Contract with SITA (or to ask for a Revised Project Plan) because a ‘long-stop date’ in the Contract (specifying that works should commence by the end of March 2010) cannot be achieved.
- If Cornwall Council terminates the contract, it would need to meet the costs of all the facilities provided by SITA so far. This has been estimated to cost £30 million.
- The Integrated Waste Management Contract and associated procurement rules are restrictive. Within the scope of the Contract, a smaller incinerator could be built within the China Clay Area and an anaerobic digestion facility added. However, any alternative scheme involving a different technology or location outside of the Central Cornwall Area of Search could not be agreed as a modification to the existing Contract.
The Contract also included a ‘price guarantee’ to build the incinerator, but only to March 2010. This also means that if the 240,000 tonne incinerator is built, its costs will be vastly greater than originally budgeted.
Dick Cole, Fred Greenslade and John Wood are presently co-ordinating the production of a Statement of Case for the Public Inquiry into the Incinerator Application on behalf of STIG (St Dennis Against Incineration). They have released the following statement to reaffirm their opposition to the incinerator proposed for St Dennis.
“It remains our view that the proposal for an incinerator at St Dennis is unsustainable. We are working hard to make sure that SITA’s appeal does not succeed and to persuade the Council to find a better way to deal with Cornwall’s waste.
“It is our intention to do everything in our power to make sure that Cornwall Council’s Cabinet fully considers the option to terminate the Contract.”