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Legal threat over UBB plant in Essex

Essex County Council could be taking an Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) joint venture to court over contractual issues surrounding the performance of a mechanical biological treatment (MBT) plant near Basildon.

The council has failed to reach contractual agreements with UBB, Balfour’s 30:70 joint venture with the Spanish waste giant Urbaser, over performance, and is now taking preliminary steps to court proceedings.

In 2012 UBB won the £800m contract to design, build and operate the waste treatment facility for the council. Balfour led on design, construction and commissioning before handing it over to Urbaser to operate.

The deal was signed under a public-private partnership agreement.

The council has now said that, during the commissioning of the plant, it has become aware of a number of performance and processing issues that it had attempted to resolve with UBB.

Cabinet member for environment and waste Simon Walsh said: “Both parties have been using the appropriate contractual mechanisms to resolve these issues.

“The next stage in this process, where there has been no final determination of the issues, is for matters to be considered by the court and we are in the preliminary stages of this next step.

“Because of the confidential nature of the contract and the status of discussions, we cannot discuss these matters publicly, and it would of course be wrong for us to do so.

“Our contractor is bound by exactly the same constraints. It is important to note that the Basildon MBT is operating, and diverting considerable waste from landfill.”

The Essex plant is the second waste facility that UBB has worked on after it won a £500m deal for the design, build and operation of the Javelin Park energy-from-waste facility in Gloucestershire.

But Javelin Park has been hit by delays, with construction starting last November – nearly four years after the contract was signed.

The joint venture declined to comment.


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