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Consultant seeks inquiry over dropped gasification facility

A waste consultant who claimed he was owed millions of pounds from a collapsed project has called for an inquiry into the local authority’s handling of the matter.

Barry Phelps, who runs D&P Management Enterprises, has dropped a £4.5m legal case against Scottish Borders Council related to its decision to scrap a £23m gasification and pyrolysis plant at Easter Langlee.

He said the council asked him to procure a facility to treat 24,000 tonnes of refuse-derived fuel (RDF) a year, which led to him brokering a contract with New Earth Solutions (NES), signed in April 2011 and worth £80m over its planned 24-year life.

Phelps claimed £4.5m in fees under a gain-share arrangement, based on what the council would save over the 24 years, which would include savings from dry recyclable and green waste collections as well as the aborted plant.

But councillors in February terminated the contract after deciding that NES had neither the necessary technology nor money, writing off £2m.

Phelps told MRW that he dropped the legal action as he could not afford to pursue it, even though he felt the council still owed him money.

“They would not come to the table to discuss a deal even though I offered them an 80% discount on what they owed me,” he said.

“This action has financially crippled me and my company. It is disappointing for a public body to behave this way.”

Matthew Webb, commercial manager of NES, told MRW in February that new rules mandating separate collection of food waste in Scotland meant the project would lose this feedstock, and waste volumes had been declining since the contract was signed.

A statement from council chief executive Tracey Logan said: “The council disputed this claim in its entirety and argued that no sum was due.

“We have been confident since the claims were submitted nearly four years ago and the court case was raised 19 months ago that our stance was the correct one. We are obviously very pleased that Mr Phelps has, belatedly, agreed that the council’s position should not be challenged.”

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