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Hartlebury incinerator decision put off yet again
A DECISION on the incinerator plan pitched as the future for waste disposal in the county has been put off yet again, with no new date as to when that decision will be made and 15 years on from when its contract was signed.
Herefordshire Council confirmed today (Friday) that a cabinet meeting on the plan set for next Friday (Oct 4) now won’t go-ahead.
Cabinet had been due to debate a financial case for the plant - at Hartlebury, near Kidderminster, and shared with Worcestershire Council - including an assessment of value for money, affordability and proposed funding options.
In a statement the council says a new funding option for the plant has emerged out of talks between the two councils and central government.
The council would not commit to details of this option saying only that there were “a number of complex matters that need to be worked through to this further proposal is developed to the level of detail required for proper consideration.”
A new decision timeline will be worked up between the councils and central government.
The council had put the previous decision date back a month ago prompting opposition members to question whether the financial case for the plant stacked up.
Opponents claim the true cost of the private finance initiative incinerator could top as much as £1 billion over the lifetime of a 25-year contract the councils have with West Mercia Waste.
Last month, the council’s general scrutiny committee called for an update ahead of the decision. Instead, the committee was told that the work on project options was “extensive” with it necessary to take a report to cabinet that offered a “comprehensive explanation” of any recommended option.
Then, Scrutiny vice-chairman Councillor Liz Harvey said she was “astounded” that after so long the council still didn’t seem to have a convincing financial case for the incinerator ready for presentation in time for that meeting.
Scrutiny was due to get an update on the contract next Tuesday (Oct 1) but this meeting, too, has been cancelled.
A “public waste management briefing” is still billed for County Hall, Worcester, next Friday from 10am.
The contract for the site was signed in 1998, but it was only last summer that the Government gave the plant a go-ahead.
A decision on progressing Hartlebury was delayed due to cost concerns in December last year, with both councils claiming they needed more time to sort out the finances.
Pitched as a waste-to-energy plant, the incinerator is integral to a joint contract signed by both councils and would be built to take some 200,000 tonnes of residual waste a year – around 50,000 tonnes of it from Herefordshire.
Without an incinerator – or a fallback plan – Herefordshire Council faces millions of pounds in Government and EU imposed fines for sending waste to landfill sites in Worcestershire already close to capacity.
In December last year, the councils agreed to develop options for alternative methods of financing for the plant. Work to identify
costs associated with the finalised options was expected to be complete by the time the cabinets of both councils were due to meet next Friday.
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