Cornwall Council Statement

Dated 16th. November 2009
Regarding Integrated Waste Management Contract

STIG Response

23rd. November 2009

We welcome the spirit of openness, which has led to Cornwall Council’s recent statement.

The Problem
It would appear that the old Cornwall County Council failed to consider the full implications of their actions when they agreed a 30 year £427 million contract, which has, at its core, the construction of a single 240,000 tonne mass burn incinerator at St Dennis (within the Central Cornwall Area of Search as identified in the Council’s 2002 Waste Local Plan).

We believe the old Cornwall County Council’s commitment to mass burn incineration has led to a systemic failure to address the real issues, compromised Cornwall’s finances and has delayed the introduction of benign, sustainable, decentralised solutions that are acceptable to the public, and are compatible with the imperative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change.

SITA has now confirmed that it would be unable to achieve the ‘long-stop date’ to comply with the current contract, because following the Planning Inquiry, the decision of the Secretary of State will not be available by that due date.

The Solution
We recognise that the new Cornwall Council is working hard to find more appropriate and sustainable ways to deal with Cornwall’s waste and believe that this indicates a complete lack of confidence in the existing proposals put forward under the SITA waste contract entered into by the previous administration.
Our new Cornwall Council has inherited a situation that must be corrected.

Extract from Cornwall Council Statement :-

“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.”

Minimal adjustment within a SITA revised project plan would be merely a token gesture and indefensible. Transport and sustainability issues would not be addressed.

As the currently proposed 120 metre high chimney is required to protect vulnerable eco systems from emissions, a reduction in incinerator capacity is unlikely to lead to a significant reduction in the height, mass and scale of any “Revised Project Plan” that SITA and Cornwall Council’s Waste Disposal team may suggest.

We believe the new Cornwall Council has the integrity and courage to terminate the contract and seek the best solutions for the greater good. They must act now.

We do not underestimate the perceived difficulty associated with that decision, but the initial cost of terminating the contract is a small price to pay for better ways of dealing with Cornwall’s waste. This is preferable to the long-term financial burden that would be incurred by every council taxpayer in Cornwall if the existing contract continued. Were councillors to succumb to a SITA revised project plan this would be a betrayal of trust.
In addition to the financial burden to all of us, an even greater burden would fall on just one community surrounding the site near St.Dennis. No single community should pay that price.

We note that:

  • Any emerging, equitable and more benign waste strategy would be negated, were a “compromise” to be reached to accommodate a “smaller” incinerator, albeit with the addition of anaerobic digestion.
  • The outdated Waste Local Plan accepts an incinerator capacity of 200,000 tonnes.
  • In 2008, some 43,000 tonnes of food waste were collected from Cornwall residents, and disposed of in landfill. This indicates the amount that might be received by the “additional Anaerobic Digester”
  • Therefore, in all probability, circa 240,000 tonnes of waste would still be destined for St Dennis. Not just a betrayal of local communities but of Cornwall as a whole.

The Cost
Cornwall Council’s Natural Resources Team is preparing to robustly defend the decision by the former Cornwall County Council’s Planning Committee to reject SITA’s planning application. SITA’s appeal against the decision has led to a public inquiry. Funding that inquiry will incur considerable cost to Cornwall Council.

It should be noted that the contract included a ‘price guarantee’ to build the incinerator, but only to March 2010. This means that if the 240,000 tonne incinerator is built, its costs will be considerably greater than originally budgeted.

We also wish to clarify the situation regarding the £30million payment to SITA should the contract be terminated.

Extract from Cornwall Council Statement :-

"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".

This is not compensation for terminating the contract but payment to SITA for the facilities provided thus far.
This investment was an inevitable requirement of any option and these vital assets will be retained by Cornwall, forming part of necessary infrastructure.
It should be noted that the collection and disposal to landfill of the aforementioned food waste cost Cornwall’s taxpayers £6.4 million in a single year.

We maintain that the best interests of Cornwall would not be served by adhering to an outdated and unwanted scheme that threatens the future, by contributing to pollution and Climate Change through incinerator and transport emissions, destroying resources and undermining the health and well being of our communities.
Cornwall has said NO to this contentious application. Why prolong the agony?

We believe that Cornwall Council’s cabinet should take the decision to terminate the contract now and abort the Appeal.