Financial support ‘could be found’ for waste site

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Council bosses have said they believe support can still be found for the building of a controversial waste incinerator plant in North Yorkshire after the Government withdrew funding for the scheme.

Today, councillors will be told that discussions are continuing to seek alternative funding after last February’s decision by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to axe £65m of private finance initiative (PFI) credit for the Allerton Park project.

Opponents of the scheme had hoped it was dead in the water after North Yorkshire County Council and York Council earlier this year dropped a legal challenge against the Government’s withdrawal of support. They had been seeking a judicial review but in January announced they had withdrawn their application after receiving legal advice it would not be in the public interest to go ahead as, even if they succeeded, Defra was unlikely to reinstate the PFI funding.

The councils will share the cost of the aborted judicial review process.

Plans for the £250m Allerton Waste Recovery Park, near Knaresborough, have been the subject of fierce opposition from campaigners, who say a 25-year management contract awarded to private company AmeyCespa is too rigid as new technology could be developed that would supersede the site’s incinerator. The scheme has provoked an outcry from opponents amid accusations the financial model is deeply flawed.

But the move has been heralded as vital to deal with hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste each year from across England’s largest county.

In a report to members of North Yorkshire County Council’s Harrogate area committee, which meets today, David Bowe, its corporate director for business and environmental services, claims there is “an increase in liquidity and appetite for funding such schemes”.

“The loss of PFI credits was disappointing and represents a significant financial challenge for the project but recent improvements in the funding market are likely to go some way to mitigate this loss,” he adds.

Coun David Simister, UKIP, county councillor for the Harrogate division of Bilton and Nidd Gorge, said: “It is going to see the taxpayers of North Yorkshire financially hamstrung for the next 25 years.”

A further report on whether the project remains affordable will be considered by the executive later this year.

Brian Cooper, speaking on behalf of the Parish Councils Group, a group of local parish councils, said of the scheme: “It’s not value for money.”

It was estimated last year around £6.5m had already been spent by North Yorkshire and York councils on developing the Allerton Park scheme.