York Residents Against Incineration

DEFRA announced yesterday that they would not now give the Allerton Park incinerator project PFI credits. This had a value of £65 million which would have paid for much of the construction costs. The announcement was brief and did not give much of an explanation for this sudden 11th hour U-turn. The rationale was that this project – along with two others in Calderdale and Merseyside – was no longer needed to meet national objectives to reduce waste sent to landfill.

York Council leader James Alexander was very publicly spitting feathers, and North Yorkshire County Council – in a display of what can only be described as monomania – threatened to go ahead anyway without the government finance. This would require significant re-working of the project, with new approvals – and outlay – by both Councils. Have they the stomach to flog this deceased horse some more?

So out of the blue was this that “not getting the PFI credits” didn’t even feature in a list of risks to the project drawn up in a November 2010 report by the “Waste PFI Working Group” of NYCC Councillors – theoretically these had been signed off earlier on that year.

You can read the full report from DEFRA that backs up this decision: “Forecasting 2020 waste arisings and treatment capacity“. In DEFRA’s opinion, the Allerton Park project was a ‘red’ risk project – unlikely to come online before 2020. “The principal reason is that the securing of a satisfactory planning permission is likely to be problematic given the controversial nature of the development.”

In other words, by not properly consulting and developing an idea with public support, the Waste Partnership was locked into a long-running battle with environmentalists, residents and opposition politicians. But we should also mention their own delays, which were racking up well before the site was even announced. For instance: having their waste strategy rejected in 2008, much of the credit for which must go to DISC, and also taking their time over failing to decide what they wanted in the first place.

YRAIN released the following statement to the media:

York Residents Against Incineration welcomes the news that DEFRA has decided to withdraw funding for the proposed incinerator at Allerton Park. But we deplore the length of time that it has taken the government to reach this conclusion. DEFRA could have recognised far sooner that this plan represents extremely poor value as a way of reducing landfill, based as it is on hopelessly outdated projections of waste volumes.

York and North Yorkshire must acknowledge that the process has been flawed from their side, with no meaningful consultation, contradictory information on liability, and policies being hastily redrawn twice around the scheme. It has been that now-common feature of modern political life: an omnishambles.

The Councils must use the government’s decision as an opportunity to reformulate their waste strategy.

The abandonment of this scheme will save council taxpayers millions over the coming years and this money should be put into more intelligent schemes of waste reduction. These should be coupled with smaller facilities more closely located to population centres, using more up-to-date technologies such as anaerobic digestion and thermal MBT. Such a solution would be more environmentally-friendly, generate more jobs and could even be less expensive.

Recycling and composting technologies have developed massively over the last ten years and the retail industry is slowly but surely using less and more easily recyclable packaging. We cannot afford to be locked into a 25-year contract to burn waste which may not be there within the next ten years.

If you support recycling and reducing our impact on the planet, this is good news.


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