Judge puts stop to incinerator challenge

Demonstrators protesting against the proposed incinerator in North Yorkshire, last year
Demonstrators protesting against the proposed incinerator in North Yorkshire, last year
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CAMPAIGNERS have lost their battle to quash planning permission for a contentious multi-million-pound waste incinerator in North Yorkshire, but insist a spectre of uncertainty surrounds the viability of the scheme.

Opponents to the proposed £250m waste management plant between Harrogate and York learned yesterday that they had failed in their bid to stage a judicial review to establish if North Yorkshire County Council had failed to follow strict planning rules when granting the go-ahead for the hugely controversial project.

Judge Mark Gosnell delivered his judgment yesterday after a hearing at Leeds Administrative Court last week to decide if the campaigners had a case to justify a judicial review.

But a huge question mark still remains over the scheme after the Government announced in February it was withdrawing critical funding for the project in North Yorkshire and another in Bradford.

North Yorkshire County Council and York Council have joined forces with local authorities for Bradford and Calderdale to ask for a separate judicial review to be heard to challenge the Government’s decision to withdraw the private finance initiative (PFI) funding.

Both the North Yorkshire project and the Bradford scheme are joint ventures between councils and waste managements firms that were expecting a share of £3.6bn the Government is spending to support projects that divert waste away from landfill sites.

Campaigners fighting the North Yorkshire scheme earmarked for a site at Allerton Park claimed the judgment which has thwarted their own attempts for a judicial review is “a very disappointing outcome”, and are faced with picking up the county council’s legal bill for up to £10,000. Opponents have claimed the £1.4bn contract to run the plant for 25 years, which was awarded by the county council and York Council to private company AmeyCespa, is far too rigid as new technologies could be developed to supersede the incinerator.

The North Yorkshire Waste Action Group’s spokesman, Bob Schofield, said: “If we had been successful, then it would have been the silver bullet to try and kill this scheme. But the campaign is still very much alive, and the fight goes on.

“The only people who seem to think that this is a good idea are the two councils and AmeyCespa. Everyone else – the Government included – believes that it is fundamentally flawed and does not offer value for money.”

The county council confirmed no court date has been set to decide if its own request for a judicial review should be granted over the Government’s decision to withdraw £65m for the North Yorkshire scheme. But work is under way to finalise details of the proposed waste plant and a business case is expected to be presented at the end of this year to councillors to decide whether or not to proceed with the contract.

The council’s executive member for planning services, Coun Gareth Dadd, said: “It is a huge relief that the planning issues have been resolved. It now means we can work on the business case for a facility which is vital to dealing with the county’s waste.”

But the Tory MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough, Andrew Jones, who has been a vocal critic of the scheme, claimed there are “still many hurdles” before the project becomes a reality.