An MP has launched a withering attack on Veolia and criticised the decision-making of Hertfordshire County Council in backing a proposed energy recovery facility.
Consultation is currently underway into the company’s application for a scheme at Rye House near Hoddesdon, which would process up to 350,000 tonnes of residual waste for the council.
Charles Walker, Conservative MP for Broxbourne, used an adjournment debate on 23 March to set out in detail why he considered the site to be unsuitable.
Much of his argument was based on evidence submitted in 2013 against previous plans for a site at New Barnfield that eventually collapsed.
Walker told MPs that the then secretary of state, a planning inspector, Hertfordshire council and Veolia were all in agreement at that time that Rye House was “not a suitable alternative for the [New Barnfield] incinerator”.
“Like the undead, however, this zombie application is now rising from the grave, badly decayed but somehow still living. Having invested significant sums of its corporate treasure to trash the Rye House, Fieldes Lock site, Veolia is now promoting it as the ideal alternative location for its incinerator.
”That is a simply stunning volte face on behalf of Veolia.”
Richard Kirkman, Veolia’s technical director who was personally criticised by Walker, said: “We want to be clear why we have chosen the Rye House site at Ratty’s Lane for an energy recovery facility to turn Hertfordshire’s unrecyclable waste into low-carbon energy.
“Originally we made a planning application for a larger facility at New Barnfield that could not be accommodated at Rye House.
“This is a new application for a different facility that does not include a mechanical pre-treatment. It is both 40% smaller in volume, less than half the surface area and will accept less waste.
“Overall this application will result in a saving of £210m to local taxpayers which will go towards protecting Hertfordshire’s local services.”
The MP also claimed that the council’s proposals for £6.5m roadworks in the area were only now being backed to counter observations in 2013 that Rye House was unsuitable for 46 HGVs a day whereas the 2017 proposal is for 212.
He has also questioned the council’s twin role as a commissioning and planning authority.
In the adjournment debate Walker said: “The county council has put itself in an impossible position from which it now needs to extricate itself. Let me be absolutely clear that, although I am making this criticism of the county council, I believe that in all other areas it is an outstanding example of good, sound and principled local government.
“It is an authority for which I have immense respect, and I do not damn it for its sole error of judgment: entering into a contract with Veolia, a company whose conduct in this matter plumbs new depths of entitlement and corporate dishonesty.”
It follows a comment in the House earlier in March when, again protected by Parliamentary privilege, Walker described Veolia as “an organisation full of sharp suits and sharp practices”.
After the earlier criticism, Veolia said it had a strong track record of delivering modern and efficient facilities operated under strict environmental and safety regulations.