Veolia has responded to strong criticism at Westminster of its proposals for an energy recovery facility in Hertfordshire.
Charles Walker, Conservative MP for Broxbourne, sought on three occasions on 9 March to have a debate on the waste management company. Under the protection of Parliamentary privilege, he called Veolia a dishonest organisation “full of sharp suits and sharp practices”.
He has also questioned Hertfordshire County Council‘s twin role as a commissioning and planning authority.
Veolia said it had a strong track record of delivering modern and efficient facilities operated under strict environmental and safety regulations.
Consultation is currently underway into the company’s application for the scheme at Rye House near Hoddesdon, which would process up to 350,000 tonnes of residual waste for the county council.
We have a strong track record of delivering modern and efficient facilities that have helped stimulate local economies across the UK. These are operated under strict environmental and safety regulations
Richard Kirkman, Veolia
A 30-year contract was signed with the council in September 2016 after a difficult period in which plans for a larger scheme at New Barnfield near Hatfield collapsed after communities secretary Eric Pickles refused planning permission and PFI credits were withdrawn by Defra.
If the current process is completed without further complication, the facility would be operational by 2020.
charles walker mp
Walker, whose constituency includes Rye House, made three interventions in the House of Commons.
In the first, he asked the leader of the House: “May we have an urgent debate on the conduct of Veolia, an organisation full of sharp suits and sharp practices? This company is promoting an incinerator in my constituency on a floodplain that just 18 months ago it was arguing before the planning inspector was unsuitable for such a site.
”This is disgraceful and, dare I say, dishonest behaviour on the part of this company.”
He was told it was a matter for the local planning authorities and the Environment Agency, but he could seek an adjournment debate on the matter.
Then, on a point of order, he asked the Speaker: “How best can I advise colleagues to sup with a long spoon when dealing with a company called Veolia?”
Walker also asked the current communities secretary Sajid Javid to consider an allegation that it was a conflict of interest for Hertfordshire to both award Veolia’s contract and assess the planning issues.
Javid said it would not be appropriate for him to comment on a particular planning application but he could ask his officials to consider information from the MP.
In response, Veolia’s technical director Richard Kirkman issued a lengthy justification for the scheme.
“We have a strong track record of delivering modern and efficient facilities that have helped stimulate local economies across the UK. These are operated under strict environmental and safety regulations and make important contributions to our need for energy,” he told MRW.
“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 included mechanical pre-treatment and which could not be accommodated at Rye House.
“This is now a different application for a significantly smaller facility which Rye House can accommodate. It is an industrial site with rail freight access which is currently identified as employment land. More than £6m has already been allocated to local road improvements combined with a commitment from Veolia to provide additional financial support.
“Overall we are making a £200m investment in the local economy as well as creating more than 300 construction and 40 permanent jobs. We are confident that this industrial site is the right proposal in the right location for this smaller facility.”
On the day Walker raised his objections, Veolia’s east region director Keith McGurk wrote to residents setting out the benefits of the Rye House scheme.