The leader of Cornwall Council has written to communities secretary Eric Pickles asking him to uphold an appeal for the controversial Cornwall Energy Recovery Centre (CERC), fearing that a dismissal would have “dire financial, environmental and operational consequences for the council”.
Pickles is currently considering an appeal by waste management company Sita against a decision by the former Cornwall County Council to reject planning permission for the 240,000-tonne energy-from-waste (EfW) facility at St Dennis, St Austell in March 2009.
In the letter, seen by MRW, council leader Alec Robertson wrote: “I and my cabinet colleagues are unanimously of the view that the appeal needs to be upheld and strongly urge you to uphold it.
“If the appeal is not upheld we would likely face the very high cost (of the order of around £30m) of terminating the contract, increased costs of landfill of some £12m a year and long delays in developing any other alternative.”
In a subsequent statement, Robertson added: “Even if the appeal is granted, the delays in the process caused by the refusal of planning permission in 2009, and changes to the design and technology of the CERC put forward during the planning appeal, means that a revised project plan will need be considered by the cabinet. This is likely to result in significant additional costs for the council, but we are working on mitigation measures to reduce this increase where possible.”
Plans for the CERC were criticised by St Austell and Newquay Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Gilbert, who told the House of Commons in April that “senior officers of Cornwall Council continue to peddle the doomsday myth to the people of Cornwall that incineration is the only answer to avoid multi-million pound fines. It is not and the council is wrong”.
UK Without Incineration Network national co-ordinator Shlomo Dowen told MRW: “If suddenly cost has become a material planning consideration, the whole planning system will have to look into, in every instance, whether that is the most-cost effective solution. Generally when campaign groups make the arguments that it would be too expensive, they are told that it is not a material planning consideration. They can’t have it both ways.”
The decision from Pickles is expected by 2 June.