York Residents Against Incineration

For what will probably be the last time, YRAIN has written to all city Councillors ahead of the sign-off on the Allerton incinerator at Thursday’s Council meeting.

The main thrust of our letter: the incinerator is more pointless and worse value than ever.

Residual waste volumes (the amount left after recyclables have been removed) have continued to fall, in spite of the predictions of the project officers. Yet we are going ahead with a huge incinerator planned on the basis that they would have been increasing since 2006.

The anticipated savings of the scheme have been roughly halved due to these decreasing waste volumes and the withdrawal of PFI funding from central government. But these savings are compared with a meaningless “market-proxy” landfill-only alternative which officers admit is “unlikely to be adopted”[1], and are based on guesswork regarding future interest rates, exchange rates and waste volumes. A properly thought-out waste strategy appropriate to modern recycling rates would cost far far less, but so such meaningful comparison has been provided to Councillors.

The immense expense cannot be justified at a time of cutbacks – per year it almost balances the total amount of cuts made to the 2014/15 Council budget[2]. And what do we get for this? A huge boost to CO2 emissions, and penalties if we recycle too much.

Project officers concede that there will be no financial benefit to the incinerator at all for 14 years, and that York has no particular need for it – thanks to declining waste volumes there is capacity at current facilities and the possibility to extend current contracts until 2032. North Yorkshire has no such luxury – for them time is running out as their contracts end next year. This is the last possible minute for them and they are in full panic.

North Yorkshire Council signed off on the waste contract on September 25th. The North Yorkshire Waste Action Group (NYWAG), who have been campaigning against these plans since 2010, effectively conceded defeat at this point. We also realise that it is highly unlikely that York Councillors will suddenly begin to look critically at these plans at this eleventh hour.

After at least eight demonstrations, a 10,000 signature petition (to our knowledge, the largest ever submitted to NYCC or CoYC) and an overwhelmingly negative response to every one-sided consultation issued on the matter, one can be forgiven for thinking that the politicians just aren’t interested in what we think.

The below is the text of our letter to Councillors. If you share our concerns, please contact your Councillor and tell them!

Dear Councillors,

This Thursday you will be asked to approve the spending of £254 million on a deeply unpopular and hugely oversized waste incinerator for York and North Yorkshire.

We probably don’t need to tell you quite how significant an amount of money this is. Spread over the lifespan of the project this is roughly the same per year as the cuts currently planned to be made to the Council budget . Why would you choose to cut youth centres and spending on the maintenance of roads and green spaces when you could save tens of millions with a sane waste strategy?

Before you make this decision we urge you to ask that your officers give you some straight answers –

a) What are the costs of leaving the Allerton Waste Recovery Park (AWRP) project?
b) How will we supply our Guaranteed Minimum Tonnage if residual waste volumes continue to fall – as indeed we should strive to achieve?
c) Why is there no meaningful comparison for the scheme, just a landfill-only ‘market proxy’ model which officers admit is “unlikely to be adopted” even without AWRP?

York does not need this incinerator. We have been hogtied to the agenda and needs of North Yorkshire County Council, whose current disposal contracts end in March 2015 with no option to extend . In order to keep the project alive after the withdrawal of PFI credits some fairly nifty (and risky) financial mechanics appear to have been employed. This project exposes the Council to huge unnecessary risks and will set back our efforts to reduce CO2 and waste arisings.

In more detail, there are four basic reasons why you should not agree to the Allerton Park project:

1. It is an enormous facility that is not needed
2. It has no mandate and is deeply unpopular
3. It is poor financial value
4. It will damage our efforts to recycle and to tackle climate change

Please read the attached briefing for a detailed and fully referenced explanation of these statements.

Yours faithfully,

Richard Lane, Ivana Jakubková, Guy Wallbanks, Dr Candida Spillard, Catherine Heinemeyer and Kate Lock
for York Residents Against Incineration.

 

References:

[1] – See the description of the “Market Proxy” in Appendix 1 to the Report to Cabinet on Financial Close
[2] – £254 million over 25 years = £10.1m per year, compared to £11m cuts planned for 2014/15 budget

The minutes & reports of the Cabinet meeting on the Financial Close, with all attendant reports, can be found here on the City of York Council website.

 

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