Liberal Democrats Call for Incinerator Review

Anna Mozol and Jeremy Hilton at Javelin Park - The proposed site of the Tory  waste incinerator

Anna Mozol and Jeremy Hilton at Javelin Park – The proposed site of the Tory waste incinerator

The Liberal Democrats on Gloucestershire County Council will at Wednesday’s extraordinary council meeting call for the Cabinet to ask Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) to halt work on the incinerator at Javelin Park until a full and public independent review has been undertaken to scrutinise both the Council’s procurement process and the contract in detail.

On two separate occasions, the Liberal Democrats have challenged pivotal decisions made by the Conservative Cabinet regarding Gloucestershire County Council’s residual waste project. Firstly, in December 2011, the Liberal Democrats lodged what is known as a ‘call-in’ over the selection of a preferred bidder and again another ‘call-in’ was submitted in September 2012 over the Cabinet’s decision to award the contract to Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) before the Council’s planning committee had considered the incinerator application.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (LD: Kingsholm and Wotton) who will be leading calls for the review said:

“From the beginning, we’ve always challenged the process. In making a decision to cancel the incinerator contract at this stage, one needs to be sure of the exact costs involved and whether or not the contract had the necessary break-clauses in place to minimise any potential financial risk to this council.

“I am not convinced that the £60m-£100m cost to cancel the UBB contract is accurate, but has been instead overly estimated as a scaremongering tactic to stop elected members from voting in favour of cancelling the contract for fear of reprisals to council services.

“It is only right and responsible for an independent auditor to examine the contract in detail and determine impartially the actual figures involved with cancelling a contract of this nature and at this particular stage.

“If the figures are proved to be accurate, then, the Tories should be ashamed of themselves in purposefully tying our hands to a stringent and highly inflexible contract that will cost many millions of taxpayers’ money to cancel and detrimentally affect many council services.

“Until we know fully the costs involved, then, I do not feel that any elected member on Wednesday can make an informed decision over whether or not to cancel the incinerator contract.

“Labour has been overzealous in calling for the cancellation of the incinerator without first looking at all the costs involved and are playing politics over an important issue, which is simply for the benefit of their parliamentary candidate standing in Stroud. If sensible they too would be asking for such a review.

“It is time that we stop playing politics with such an important issue and get to the bottom of the real costs involved and whether the process was done correctly from the beginning.”

Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Cllr. Iain Dobie (LD: Leckhampton and Warden Hill) also said:

“If Labour are serious about cancelling this contract then wouldn’t it be better for them to know all the facts and surely if the Tories have nothing to hide then delaying work until the contract has been independently scrutinised would give elected members and residents of Gloucestershire confidence in the current administration.

“A review of this kind would give elected members like myself who were only elected in 2013 all the facts to make a reasoned and informed decision on whether it really is in the best interests of Gloucestershire to cancel the incinerator contract or not. I believe in transparency and I come to this without any prejudice.

“Our request is basically that once this review has been completed and a full uncensored report be presented to full council on Wednesday 20th May, then, we shall be in a much better position to make such an important decision.”

Astronomical costs to cancelling incinerator contract

In response to the costs associated with cancelling the UBB incinerator contract that have been shared with the Liberal Democrat Group.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (LD: Kingsholm and Wotton) said that:

“We have seen the figures for exiting the waste incinerator contract with UBB and it is astronomical. The figures quoted are between £60m and £100m, which is far greater than the £33 million quoted for cancelling a similar contract in Norfolk.

“Labour have acted irresponsibly in calling to cancel this contract before knowing these costs. The Conservatives were reckless in signing such a rigid contract before the planning committee had even considered the application.

“The Liberal Democrats have always been opposed to the building of an incinerator and have continually pushed for alternative technologies such as Mechanical Biological treatment (MBT).

“We will now be looking at these figures in detail and seeking legal advice.

“Both Labour and the Conservatives should be ashamed of themselves in allowing this diabolical situation to develop in a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ position.”

ENDS….

Don’t leave us in limbo Mr Pickles

 

Liberal Democrats on Gloucestershire County Council have today requested an extraordinary council meeting to be arranged in January over the Secretary of State’s failure, for the third time, to announce a decision on the £500m Javelin Park incinerator.

Jeremy Hilton, Steve Webb & Kevin Daws - thumbs down to incinerator 2

A written request has been submitted by five Liberal Democrat County Councillors to the Chairperson, Cllr. Awford, voicing disappointment with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles MP, in delaying to make a final decision.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton said that:

“Once this meeting has been arranged, we’ll be insisting the Leader of this Council, Cllr. Mark Hawthorne writes to the Secretary of State immediately.

“Two years ago, the county council’s planning committee unanimously rejected permission to build a massive waste incinerator at Javelin Park. It is a disgrace that Eric Pickles, has for the third time, failed to make a decision on whether or not such a facility should be built.

“We demand that Mr. Pickles makes his decision no later than the start of the 2015 general election purdah period, i.e. Thursday 26th March 2015.

“The Conservative’s shambolic approach during the previous council meant the contract was signed before planning permission was considered. The consequences of has already cost this council millions of pounds. Any further delays will undoubtedly add to this cost and to the taxpayer.

“The Liberal Democrats have always been opposed to the building of this incinerator, but being ‘left in limbo’ like this is totally unacceptable.”

Cllr. Paul Hodgkinson, who has also put his name requesting for an additional meeting, also said that:

“The situation has gone beyond a joke. I cannot see any legitimate reason why the Secretary of State cannot make a decision one way or the other over the building of a mass burning incinerator at Javelin Park.

“The Conservatives are undoubtedly nervous about any decision made this side of May’s elections.

“Of course it may well hamper the Tories chances in holding seats, especially the parliamentary ones currently held by Richard Graham in the City and Geoffrey Clifton-Brown in the Cotswolds.

“It is time the Leader of the County Council stood up for residents and demand that this decision is made before the elections in May.”

ENDS

Flood defences to be improved at Alney Island says Jeremy Hilton

Liberal Democrats have welcomed the £2.3bn investment into flood defences announced this month as part of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. There are 15 schemes earmarked in Gloucestershire with an estimated total cost of £7.5million.

Jeremy Hilton behind the flood wall at Alney Terrace

Jeremy Hilton behind the flood wall at Alney Terrace

In Gloucester, four schemes will benefit from this money, including a scheme to improve the flood defences at Alney Island. The work will be led by the Environment Agency and cost £400,000. The start date is 2019.

Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Gloucester, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton said:

“This investment is welcome news for a lot of residents in the county who know what it is like to have their property damaged by flood water. I hope these schemes will give some comfort and reassurance to residents whose homes are most at-risk.

“Being prepared for future severe weather will undoubtedly bring a lot of security to those who every year face uncertainly over whether or not their home will be flooded.

“I am particular pleased about the four schemes that are being funded to protect homes in Gloucester. At Alney Island 59 properties will receive added flood protection from the River Severn as the Environment Agency improves the flood protection to the island. This year the floodwaters came within a two inches of breaching the floodwall at Alney Terrace.

River Severn rising February 2014 it came within two inches of the top of the flood wall

River Severn rising February 2014 it came within two inches of the top of the flood wall

“Three other schemes are being funded at The Rea in Hempsted, Deans Walk in Kingsholm and Tewkesbury Road at Longford. We have seen how the investment in flood protection following 2007 has worked. We must continue to invest in flood protection. I applaud the new money being provided by the coalition government in Gloucester and the rest of the county.”

Four schemes in Gloucester are

· Tewkesbury Road, Longford, Gloucester. Individual property level protection measures to reduce flood risk for up to 6 properties. Currently £30,000 has been allocated for measures to be implemented in 2018. . Scheme to be led by Gloucester City Council.

· Deans Walk, Gloucester. Individual property level protection measures to reduce flood risk for up to 46 properties. Currently £230,000 has been allocated for measures to be implemented in 2020. Scheme to be led by Gloucester City Council.

· River Severn, Hempsted and Rea, Gloucester. Currently local levy funding has been allocated to develop a scheme to improve the existing defences to reduce flood risk to 132 properties and businesses. The earliest expected construction start date is 2021, subject to approval of a full business case and securing other funding contributions. This is to be led by the Environment Agency.

· Alney Island Improvements, River Severn. A project to improve the standard of protection offered by the existing defences at Alney Island, Gloucester to 59 properties. £400,000 has been provisionally allocated towards a scheme. As the options develop the scheme costs are likely to increase. Currently construction estimated to start 2019, subject to approval of a full business case and the securing of any other funding contributions needed. This scheme will be led by the Environment Agency.

 

Alternative plans instead of waste incinerator announced

A long-awaited report into what should be done with Gloucestershire’s rubbish should a controversial plan to build an incinerator at Javelin Park be thrown out by the Government gives the county three alternatives.

The report has been produced by an all party working group of county councillors set up following a motion put to the county council by the Liberal Democrat immediately after the county elections in 2013. Lib councillors on the Plan B working group were Simon Wheeler and Bill Whelan.

Build another incinerator, build a Mechanical Biological Treatment facility to turn trash into fuel and ship it out of the county, or don’t build anything and just send all of Gloucestershire’s rubbish elsewhere to be dealt with.

Here’s what the Tories and Liberal Democrat think of the plans:

Conservative

Councillor Ray Theodoulou (C, Fairford and Lechlade), Conservative deputy leader of Gloucestershire County Council, said: “This report demonstrates what we’ve been saying all along – that an energy from waste plant like we propose is a clean, safe and efficient way of getting rid of Gloucestershire’s waste which we can’t recycle.

“The report is clear that it won’t stop us recycling, and that, thanks to decisions taken when Labour and the Lib Dems ran this council, Javelin Park is one of the only realistic sites. It’s great that so many opposition councillors have put party politics aside to say that.”

Liberal Democrat

Councillor Jeremy Hilton (LD, Kingsholm and Wotton), the leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “I’m delighted that this report is now in the public domain.

“In the event that the council’s current controversial contract proposal for an incinerator is rejected by the Secretary of the State we now at least have a ‘Plan B’.

“The Liberal Democrats have always opposed the building of a mass burning waste incinerator and have continually called for alternative technologies.

“It is good to see that Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) may be back on the table of possible options.

“We now wait upon the decision of Eric Pickles in determining the county’s future waste disposal.”

Make Gloucester Cathedral a World Heritage site – say Lib Dems

 

Jerem Hilton outside Gloucester Cathedral

Jerem Hilton outside Gloucester Cathedral

Gloucester Cathedral should become a UNECO World Heritage site according to the Liberal Democrats. On the 23rd January, Gloucester City Council will debate whether the council along with the Dean and Chapter should make a bid for the cathedral to become a World Heritage Site (WHS). Liberal Democrat leader, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton, is proposing the idea.

There are 16 world Heritage sites in England, including Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is responsible for the nomination of UK sites.

Gloucester Cathedral was built between 1089 and 1499. It has stood in heart of the city for nearly a thousand years. It is a fine example of English Cathedral design. Visitors can enjoy art and architecture from across the ages. The cathedral is listed as a top five UK visitor attraction in Which Magazine readers’ survey.

Jeremy Hilton said: “We should seriously consider bidding for Gloucester Cathedral to become a World Heritage Site. This would be a prestigious designation. It would help create a sense of pride for everyone who lives in Gloucester. It would surely boost the numbers of visitors to Gloucester. We should be bold and make a bid to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.”

Cllr. Declan Wilson said: “Our proposal also mentions of “Project Pilgrim” that will see £5m invested in the cathedral building and grounds to improve visitor experience. When I first moved to Gloucester, I was impressed by the magnificence of the cathedral. It is one of the most impressive cathedrals in Europe and would make a great addition to the UK twenty five World Heritage Sites.”

Ends…

Wording of the motion

“This council notes that Gloucester Cathedral is listed as a top five UK visitor attraction in Which Magazine readers’ survey.

This council notes and welcomes plans under Project Pilgrim to invest £5m in the Cathedral and its grounds.

That this council agrees to approach the Dean & Chapter to consider whether to apply to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport for Gloucester Cathedral to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”

Proposed by Jeremy Hilton & Seconded by Declan Wilson

Gloucestershire County Council will defend the decision to refuse planning permission for waste incinerator

Gloucestershire County Council will vigorously defend the decision to refuse planning permission for a massive waste incinerator at Javelin Park, Gloucester. This is the outcome of a debate led by Liberal Democrat Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (Kingsholm & Wotton) at the first meeting of the new county council earlier today.

On the 22nd February the Conservative administration signed a 25 year contract with Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) to build a 190,000 tonnes per year waste incinerator at Javelin Park. One month later (21st March) the county council’s planning committee unanimously refused planning permission.

At today’s meeting, the county council supported an amended motion proposed by Cllr Hilton calling for the chief executive to seek robust support to defend the unanimous decision of the planning committee.

 Cllr. Jeremy Hilton said: “The planning committee refused permission to build this massive waste incinerator for sound planning reasons. They were unhappy about the size of the building, which is taller than Gloucester Cathedral and its harm to the local landscape. The overbearing impact the incinerator would have on nearby residential properties. The council must vigorously defend this decision in any appeal that UBB may take in the future.”

 The county council also agreed that a plan B needs to be prepared as an alternative to the waste incinerator to process the council’s household waste. A cross party working group will be immediately set up to consider alternatives to the waste incinerator.

Cllr Hilton concluded: “The council cannot stand idly by waiting for the appeal process to be concluded. We need to start working on plan B. My preferred solution would be Mechanical Biological Treatment as the cornerstone of a more environmentally and taxpayer friendly alternative. We must start working on this tomorrow.”

 Ends…

 Motion approved

 This council notes the decision made by the recent Planning Committee to reject the planning application to build a waste incinerator at Javelin Park.

 This council therefore calls on the Chief Executive to seek robust support to defend the unanimous Planning Committee decision in any appeal process that may take place in the future.

 This Council should immediately establish a “Plan B” cross-party working group to consider alternatives to the current proposals for a waste incinerator at Javelin Park, to be available in the event that the council’s current contract proposal with UBB ultimately fails.

 

Stop work on the incinerator!

The county council must stop work on the waste incinerator project until after the elections, when a new administration can give fresh instructions to council officers. That is the view of the Liberal Democrat group.

 Following the decision of the planning committee to refuse planning permission for a £500m waste incinerator at Javelin Park, Liberal Democrat leader Cllr. Jeremy Hilton has written to the chief executive of Gloucestershire County Council requesting work on the project to be halted.

 Jeremy Hilton has also asked for confirmation on whether or not the contract between the county council and Urbaser Balfour Beatty has been signed.

 Cllr. Jeremy Hilton said: “The planning committee has spoken; in my view the plan to build a mass burn incinerator at Javelin Park should be stopped until after the elections on May 2nd, when a new administration can give fresh instructions to council officers to progress alternative plans.

 “Mechanical Biological Treatment of our residual waste would be much cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternative than burning our waste.”

 In a letter to the chief executive, Cllr. Hilton requested that no further work be done on the waste incinerator project until new administration was in place. He also asked the council to request UBB from not proceeding with a planning appeal.

Cllr. Simon Wheeler a member of the planning committee said: “The committee came to the only honest conclusion it could in the face of overwhelming argument by members of the public. As a councillor I represent first the wishes of the public.

 “The public have made it absolutely clear that they do not wish to have this monstrosity built at Javelin Park and as such, by the end of the debate, that was the only way I could vote. If only the cabinet of GCC could have taken that principle on board months ago we could have saved every one much pain anguish and tax payers money”

 Ends…

 Javelin Park planning application – reasons for refusal

 The development conflicts with several  development plan policies and whilst  WCS14, Structure Plan Policy NHE1, and Stroud District Local Plan Policy NE10 recognise the potential for other public (including social, environmental, and economic) benefits to outweigh harm to the landscape, it is considered as a matter of planning judgement the identified harm is not outweighed by those considerations. 

The form of the development will introduce a prominent building causing significant loss of the open character and the natural rural appearance to this part of the Severn Vale contrary to WCS Policy 14, WLP Policy 37, Stroud District Local Plan Policy NE10 and paragraph 109 of the NPPF in term of the effect on the intrinsic character of the countryside and Structure Plan Policies NHE1 and S6 (a).

The development is outside the Cotswold AONB and views from it including from the Cotswold Way would be generally against the backdrop of the Severn Vale which includes other building development.  It is considered that there would be some visual impact which would affect the noted special qualities of the area. We agree with Natural England that significant adverse impacts of the proposal are not outweighed by other considerations.  Therefore, as a matter of judgment it is considered that there would be significant harm to the overall setting of the AONB and long distance views.  The proposed mitigation measures in the layout and design of the EfW do not overcome this harm contrary to Policy WCS14.

The development would lead to harm to the significance of designated heritage assets and that harm is not outweighed by the public benefits of the proposal contrary to Policy WCS16 and Paragraph 134 of the NPPF.  

 Notwithstanding the proposed mitigation, the proposed development would have an overbearing effect on nearby residential properties adversely affecting amenity contrary to WLP Policy 37 and Stroud District Local Plan Policy GE1.