A CONTROVERSIAL £740m plan to build a new waste plant in North Yorkshire has taken a significant step forward.
North Yorkshire County Council will take a final decision on whether to sign the contract for the Allerton Waste Recovery Park later this month after the authority’s executive recommended the go-ahead.
The plant, which would deal with around 300,000 tonnes of waste a year, has been the subject of fierce opposition from those close to the proposed site near Knaresborough.
If the contract is given the final go-ahead, waste firm AmeyCespa will build and operate the site for 25 years before it is handed back to North Yorkshire and York Council which is also a partner in the project.
York Council’s cabinet was considering whether to press ahead at a meeting last night.
The future of the scheme was put in doubt last year when the Government withdrew financial support from the scheme worth around £125m on the grounds it is no longer needed to meet European Union waste targets.
But North Yorkshire County Council’s executive was told by council officers yesterday that the financial case for the scheme remains sound and will save the authorities around £160m on the cost of dealing with waste over the life of the contract.
The two councils would face a financial penalty of up to £5m if they chose not to go ahead with the scheme.
County Coun Chris Metcalfe, executive member for waste management, said: “The view that was taken about the alternatives was that whilst there is spare capacity in plants elsewhere around the region those costs were unknown and there were no guarantees or long term certainty about them being able to take our waste.
“So there was a risk of having to start the whole process again which would take another five years.”
If it goes ahead, the plant will use anaerobic digestion technology to deal with food waste and also burn rubbish that cannot be recycled.
Both processes are expected to generate electricity that could power as many as 40,000 homes.
According to council estimates, the plant will create 70 long term jobs and 400 further posts while it is being built.
Opponents of the proposal have argued the case for the Allerton Waste Recovery Park is based on overestimates of the amount of waste that will be generated in North Yorkshire in the coming years.
And they say the plant would create an incentive not to recycle waste because it needs ‘feeding’ with thousands of tonnes of rubbish to make the sums add up.
UK Independence Party County Coun David Simister said: “Whichever way the executive had voted there was only ever going to be one loser – North Yorkshire’s tax payers.
“More than £8m has already been wasted on this vanity project, and to pull out now will come with a £5m penalty clause.
“However unpalatable that may be, it will still be significantly cheaper than if this white elephant is given the go ahead.”
Planning permission for the Allerton Waste Recovery Park was granted last year, a decision which was later upheld when opponents challenged it in the courts.