Council gives £165m loan to help build incinerator

Malvern Gazette: GO AHEAD: An artist’s impression of the Hartlebury incinerator. Worcestershire County Council will give a £165 million loan to support the project which could start next spring. GO AHEAD: An artist’s impression of the Hartlebury incinerator. Worcestershire County Council will give a £165 million loan to support the project which could start next spring.

A CONTROVERSIAL wasteburning incinerator in Worcestershire is finally on the verge of becoming a reality after politicians backed a £165 million loan for the project.

Worcestershire County Council’s Conservative cabinet has endorsed a package to build the plant, which will handle 200,000 tonnes of waste every year, in Hartlebury.

The deal, which has been in progress since the 1990s, will see Worcestershire taxpayers fork out £125 million of the loan, with the rest paid for by Herefordshire households.

It was backed during a stormy meeting at County Hall in which protestors barracked councillors, and hurled abuse after the decision was made.

The deal now needs to go to full council for a final vote and, subject to ministerial sign off, construction can start next spring for an early 2017 opening.

A report before the cabinet said dealing with all the rubbish from the two counties will cost a staggering £1.65 billion by 2042. However, unless efforts are made to tackle landfill, costs could top £2.1 billion.

Not pressing ahead with the actual plant will cost an extra £128 million alone, partly due to serious fears over the county’s landfill sites, which are forecast to be full by 2024.

At the start of the debate, protestors took turns to attack the project, with some claiming there is still time to look at alternatives.

Rob Wilden, from Herefordshire and Worcestershire Action Group, told councillors: “In two years’ time many of you will not be here – think about the legacy of debt you are leaving for those who follow you.

“How many times have I heard ‘this is what we inherited, it’s not our fault’?”

Fellow objector Bill Hopkins said: “My objection is based purely on cost – I put it to you that you are barking up the wrong tree.

“I think it’s hugely expensive and it’s not going to do the job.”

Other protestors urged councillors to consider alternatives, saying the scheme would discourage people from recycling.

But Councillor John Campion, cabinet member for commissioning and transformation, said: “People can always say ‘things will change, if you wait longer you will get a better horse to back’, but this decision should have been taken a long time ago.

“It’s the best option for taxpayers.”

Councillor Lucy Hodgson, cabinet member for localism and communities, added: “Standing still is something we cannot do.

“We can’t risk waiting to see what’s around the corner.”

The site will be run by West Mercia Waste, but when the existing contract signed in 1998 expires, it will be handed back to the councils from 2023.

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