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Incinerator row hots up in Gloucestershire

The Liberal Democrats and local campaigners are challenging the ruling Conservatives on Gloucestershire County Council over plans to build an incinerator with an annual capacity of 175,000 tonnes.

The Lib Dems now plan to lodge a motion on 30 November that the project at Javelin Park, Haresfield, be halted until the council explains why it has chosen incineration.

Campaigners argue there has not been an open debate around the decision to choose the technology.

Both the Lib Dems and local campaigners say alternative technology such as mechanical biological treatment (MBT) and anaerobic digestion (AD) would be preferable. They point to a nearby MBT plant at Avonmouth that takes in 120,000 tonnes of residual waste a year, a similar amount to that generated across Gloucestershire.

In the meantime, the council has whittled down the selection of a waste contractor to two bidders who propose building an energy-from-waste plant. They are Complete Circle (a consortium of John Laing, Keppel Seghers & Shanks) and a consortium of Urbaser and Balfour Beatty.

Cabinet project champion for waste Cllr Stan Waddington said: “Gloucestershire County Council has been engaged for some years on a process to select a safe and affordable way of getting rid of rubbish that can’t be recycled.

“The full council, including the Lib Dems, have specifically supported the technology neutral process we have used. Sadly now that process is coming to an end, the Lib Dems are trying to score party political points. Halting the procurement at this stage would cost taxpayers millions, and see thousands of tonnes of rubbish dumped into landfill.”

The leader of the Liberal Democrats in Gloucestershire, Cllr Jeremy Hilton said: “We have never felt that they have looked at all the options. They have never considered other technologies that are more environmentally sound and work in other areas.”

Local campaigner Sue Oppenheimer said everything was in the incinerator’s favour because the banks will lend against it and there were significant profits for the waste contractor.

She said: “Instead of going for one big strategic site that’s inflexible with a 20-year contract, what they should have done is gone for smaller and more flexible solutions for each district – or at least three or four districts.”

Oppenheimer said MBT and AD could deal with 80% of the waste. The remaining 20% she said could either be effectively stored in landfill and may be addressed with future packaging legislation or improved recycling technology.

She added that due to the isolated location of the plant it would be difficult to use the heat generated from the plant.

The Lib Dem motion asked that: “Cabinet provide a full economic, health, and environmental impact assessment of mass burn incineration in comparison to other technological solutions including Mechanical Biological Treatment.

The comparisons between different residual waste technologies are demonstrated, scrutinised and debated in public.”

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