FURIOUS council leaders have been left counting the cost to taxpayers after critical funding for two major waste incinerator projects in Yorkshire was withdrawn by the Government, putting their future in doubt.
In a surprise move, Ministers scrapped financial support for the proposed £250m Allerton Waste Recovery Park near Knaresborough and a £170m facility planned for Bradford, leaving four Yorkshire councils’ plans for dealing with thousands of tonnes of rubbish every year in tatters.
The news was met with delight, however, by campaigners who have vociferously opposed the scheme planned for the former Allerton Quarry site.
Bradford Council estimated it had already spent around £5m developing its joint scheme with Calderdale Council while the costs amassed by York and North Yorkshire councils on the Allerton Park project were put at around £6.5m.
Both projects 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.
But council leaders were stunned yesterday when the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs decided the two Yorkshire schemes, and a third on Merseyside, were no longer needed to meet European Union landfill targets.
It is just weeks since a different Government department decided there would be no public inquiry into the Allerton Park scheme, apparently removing the final obstacle to its development.
York Council leader James Alexander said: “North Yorkshire and York have spent millions of pounds of taxpayers money getting the PFI project into the position it is in.
“We will now have to spend more on landfill taxes and on finding an alternative solution for our waste, which could mean further cuts to the council’s budget.”
North Yorkshire County Council leader John Weighell described the decision as “baffling” but insisted it did not automatically mark the scrapping of the Allerton Park scheme.
However, Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones said it was time to “draw a line” under the incinerator project while the North Yorkshire Waste Action Group said the scheme was unaffordable without Government help.
NYWAG spokesman Bob Schofield said: “This is absolutely excellent news and we are highly delighted that the Treasury and Defra share our view that this scheme isn’t value for money.
“This is an opportunity for the councils to look at the cheaper, more cost effective and more environmentally friendly options we have been urging them to adopt.”
Bradford and Calderdale councils were expecting to agree the contract for the new waste treatment centre on a site in Bowling Back Lane in Bradford this summer.
Coun Andrew Thornton, Bradford Council’s executive member for environment, sport and sustainability, said: “This is a massive blow that jeopardises the delivery of an important project which would have resulted in major long-term cost savings for council taxpayers in both local authorities.”
If the schemes do not go ahead, the four councils will have to re-think how they deal with thousands of tonnes of waste.
A Defra spokeswoman said: “We now expect to have sufficient infrastructure in England to enable the UK to meet the EU target of reducing waste sent to landfill. Consequently the decision has been taken not to fund the remaining three projects.
“This does not necessarily mean the three projects will stop. That will be a decision for the local authorities concerned.”