Jubilant campaigners who won a legal battle in Cornwall against an incinerator scheme are pressing for alternative plans to dispose of the county’s waste.
Last week, the high court overturned planning permission for the £117m Cornwall Energy Recovery Centre at St Dennis, to be operated by Sita, because crucial work scrutinising its impact on nearby Special Areas of Conservation was not done.
The secretary of state was given three weeks to appeal the judgment. Such was the council’s confidence the case would go Sita’s way that preparatory work on the site of the 240,000 tonne incinerator already underway - that has had to be stopped.
Cornwall Council called the ruling “extremely disappointing” and added that delays in establishing a site were costing £1m a month in road haulage and landfill taxes.
Sita project director David Buckle said: “This judgment gives us cause for considerable concern and we will need to study the detail of this decision and consider any possible remedies.
“We have always believed that the CERC is the best technical, financial and environmental solution for managing Cornwall’s waste and it is important that the scheme is able to progress, as without it Cornwall is facing an enormous waste problem.”
Campaigners from Cornwall Waste Forum (CWF), however, have been working on a Plan B for the county’s waste disposal. They want what they call decentralised high materials recycling with gasification and AD, claiming the ruling presented “a brilliant opportunity for Cornwall to move into the 21st century.”
The point to Surrey where county council - also working with Sita - dropped plans two years ago to build two incinerators and instead invested in gasification and AD facilities. The move netted the council a saving of £150m.
CWF’s St Dennis branch campaigner Charmian Larke said: “Why wouldn’t you do that? I think you have to be totally dotty to not do that – of course I am biased.”
The forum also urges the council to use facilities being developed by the private sector. Larke said: “The private sector has been getting on and doing it while the councils have been wringing their hands.”
One example is at Hallenbeagle industrial estate in the middle of Cornwall where entrepreneurs want to build a 45,000 tonne advanced thermal plant which could be scaled up to process half the county’s household waste.
Campaigners argue the current contract could be broken up and spread across smaller contractors. Alternatively, the council could bring waste management in-house, which it did before the contract with Sita.
Cornwall Council warned that terminating the contract with Sita could cost it more than £50m.
A spokeswoman said: “The costs quoted were based on the assumption that we would be required to terminate the contract, on a force majeure basis, and pay SITA between £30m and £50m.
“Terminating the contract would also mean that the council would have to continue to rely on municipal landfill to deal with its waste until at least 2014. The cost of paying landfill tax would be over £14m a year by this time.
- Cornwall’s cabinet was meeting on Friday to consider the tendering process for merging a number of existing waste collection and cleaning contracts into one, county-wide, arrangement.