17 February 2010
Let me begin with people. Few of us would choose to live very near a waste incinerator or a sewerage plant or any of the back-of-the-drawer essentials of modern life; nor would we be cheerful about finding ourselves unexpectedly living very near them because of council decisions. Let there be no shirking of that truth. Nor of another truth. Dick Cole, the Mebyon Kernow leader, asked a telling question of the Cornwall cabinet discussing an incinerator for residual waste in Cornwall: would an incinerator be acceptable in Feock or Fowey or Mullion, affluent coastal places of Cornwall? I don’t know whether he got an answer but it’s No. I have much sympathy for the people who live near the site for Cornwall’s proposed incinerator.
Let me now look at the issue without the people. In 2006 Cornwall county council, then controlled by the Liberal Democrats, awarded a £427 million thirty-year PFI contract to the company SITA to manage Cornwall’s waste. In March 2009 the county council planning committee refused SITA’s proposal for an energy recovery centre, which included an incinerator, near St Dennis.
This document spells out plainly the background and options. (It’s item 8 of the agenda of the 10 February 2010 meeting of the Cornwall cabinet.)
SITA has appealed against the planning refusal. The appeal hearing begins next month and a final decision from the government is expected by February next year. This SITA document is a non-technical summary of the company’s proposal.
Meanwhile SITA has just been asked by the cabinet of Cornwall council to produce a revised waste proposal — within months, I think.
Cornwall council faced broadly two options: to end the contract with SITA or to go for a revised scheme with them.
Some in Cornwall wanted the first. However, ending the contract would cost between £35-£50 million (paragraph 17 of the document of paragraph 3) to which should be added the costs set out in my next paragraph.
It is estimated that it would take a minimum of nine years to implement a new waste scheme (paragraph 16). Landfill costs and trades — in effect for us in Cornwall taxes to pay — would be about £166 million over the nine years, though this assumes no increases in some charges (paragraphs 18-19). With contract termination charges, that’s a total of around £200 million (paragraph 20). Over nine years that could turn out to be £300 million (at page 13).
Cornwall cabinet has rightly rejected that and is rightly seeking a revised scheme which will include an incinerator and energy-from-waste technology on a site in central Cornwall.
Dick Cole (MK) has said that a revised scheme for an incinerator in central Cornwall would be “unacceptable”. However, the SITA scheme strikes me as sound and there is no alternative ready to go in Cornwall. The SITA scheme is a proven technology, it avoids landfill (which has to end here soon anyway) and punitive landfill charges. It produces energy, electricity. And I think in the end it will happen.
This brings me back to people and energy recovery and incinerator. There are concerns among residents, and there are reassurances, about the environmental and health issues. This is a story played out across Britain: progress for all comes at an unhappy price for some.
For the case against the incinerator see this website, St Dennis Anti-Incinerator Group . The website includes information on alternative techologies and environmental and health aspects. The objections of St Dennis parish council are set out here.