Waste incinerator proposal wastes millions of pounds

Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) spent £3.3m of taxpayers’ money on developing plans for a waste incinerator—and then rejected it at their own planning committee!

The wasteful saga began five years ago when GCC initiated plans to develop a rubbish incinerator on a site at Javelin Park in Haresfield. Last year, they signed a 25-year multi-million pound contract with Urbaser Balfour Beatty to build the facility. Presumably thinking they’d easily walk the proposal through the planning committee, but they now face possibly further expenditure if any penalty clauses are triggered.

In the meantime, local protesters successfully galvanised a very vocal campaign against the incinerator that made councillors—ever mindful of re-election—reconsider their view on the project. At a packed planning committee meeting in March, all 18 councillors rejected their own council’s costly proposal. To the delight of local campaigners, a succession of parish council representatives railed against it. ‘There are much cheaper options than this £150million incinerator,’ said one. ‘A mechanical biological treatment facility costs £25million and a gasification plant costs £27million. This will cost us three times as much. The incinerator is not needed. It is a white elephant.’

‘The incinerator will be like five two-storey houses on top of each other,’ said another. ‘It is a monolith that they cannot camouflage or hide. This is going to be the gateway to Gloucestershire. Do we really want that?’ Well, until that meeting their county council was very keen on it!

The multi-million pound cost to the taxpayer of this failed proposal has only just been revealed. Following a Freedom of Information request, the council officer overseeing the project had to admit the details.

‘The average [cost] for a project is around 2.5% of its capital value for external advisors,’ he explained, ‘so for this project it would be about £5m. Our cost, including external and internal advisors, is around £3m. Some of it goes to run the internal team like me, my deputy, my technical officers, and some of the accountants, lawyers and technical experts. It’s all very carefully spent.’

‘It does take this long,’ he insisted, ‘it is about the norm. It takes this long because we started with 11 proposals and eight bidders. We’ve had to whittle that down to the final one.’ As for any details of penalty clauses faced by the local taxpayer, the council declined to reveal this...

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