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Oxfordshire waste treatment deal still stands despite councillors call-in

The decision to award a contract for Oxfordshire’s residual waste treatment still stands despite an attempt by an all-party group of councillors to call it in.

Viridor was awarded the contract on 27 July, but the decision was called-in at a Growth and Infrastructure Committee scrutiny meeting yesterday (August 9).

The reason given for the call-in request was: “That the contract is not in the best interests of the people of Oxfordshire.”

Although the scrutiny committee could not reverse the Cabinet’s decision, it could have asked or recommended that it reconsiders.

However, at yesterday’s meeting it was decided by a vote of five to three, with two abstentions, not to revert the decision back to the Cabinet, meaning it still stands despite some councillors feeling that it is not the best way forward for Oxfordshire’s waste.

As part of the contract, Viridor put forward a proposal to develop a 300,000-tonne-a-year energy-from-waste (EfW) facility at Ardley Fields Farm, Oxfordshire, which was the subject of a planning inquiry that concluded at the end of last month. The outcome of this planning inquiry will not be known until December when the secretary of state for communities and local government is due to give his decision.

Councillor Zoe Patrick, one of the councillors involved in calling-in the decision, explained to MRW: “There are a few reasons why we decided to do this. What with the contract being 25 years with no break clause in it, if cleaner technologies come into the market a few years down the line Oxfordshire will be stuck with this as a solution.

“Also people are doing more recycling these days so it is likely that we would need to bring in more waste from elsewhere to feed the incinerator.

“There are other factors too such as the traffic in the village in Ardley which will increase if this goes ahead.”

According to Patrick, there is now little that can be done to reverse the decision as the call-in was unsuccessful.

“Of course it may still get turned down at the planning stage,” she explained “but that is part of the reason we were worried about it, as a clause in the contract states that the County Council will be required to pay Viridor compensation if it is refused planning permission. It seems very odd, in that case, that the cabinet seemed so keen to get it through before the outcome of planning inquiry has been decided.”

Responding to the call-in, a representative from Viridor said: “Both the Environment Agency (EA) and the Health Protection Agency are satisfied our proposals are safe, and the EfW facility will utilise cost-effective, modern and effective monitoring and control technologies.

“The EA is currently consulting the public on a draft environmental permit for the facility, which sets out conditions ensuring that the site will be safely and professionally operated.”

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