MPs seeking public inquiry into £1bn waste incinerator deal

MINISTERS are being urged to consider launching a public inquiry into a hugely controversial decision by councillors to approve a £1bn contract for a waste incinerator in North Yorkshire.

MPs opposed to the proposals to build a waste management plant between York and Harrogate will now petition the Government in a bid to prevent the scheme becoming a reality.

Selby and Ainsty MP Nigel Adams and his Parliamentary colleague Andrew Jones, who represents the Harrogate and Knaresborough constituency, have both been vocal critics of the contentious project.

The Yorkshire Post revealed yesterday that county councillors had agreed to award the 1bn contract to run the plant to an international waste management firm, AmeyCespa.

Councillors in York agreed last week to also give the contract spanning the next 25 years to AmeyCespa.

However, Mr Adams stressed that there are significant hurdles to negotiate as the waste management plant still needs to be given planning permission.

He said: "I am disappointed, but not surprised by the county council's decision. I have had concerns right throughout this process about the financial implications.

"It simply does not make sense to be committing ourselves to such a long-term contract involving millions of pounds of taxpayers' money.

"Public inquiries are very costly, and the taxpayer is left to pick up the bill. However, a public inquiry is certainly an option for this particular scheme, and it is something that needs to be discussed.

"I will be talking to Ministers to see if there is anything that can be done to look more closely at the financial aspects of this project."

County councillors voted 49 to 17 in favour of awarding the contract to AmeyCespa following a heated four-hour debate on Wednesday.

Campaigners had made impassioned pleas to members during the full council meeting at County Hall in Northallerton to ditch the controversial incinerator scheme and instead focus more on boosting recycling rates.

But councillors decided to push ahead with awarding the contract, six days after the same decision was reached during a full council meeting in York.

The county council's executive member for waste disposal, Clare Wood, claimed that the contract provided "long-term financial stability" in dealing with waste at a time that the authority is having to make millions of pounds of cutbacks to services.

She added: "People are concerned about having the roads repaired, about their children's education and about the provision of social care. They do not want to have to worry about waste and recycling, although it is obviously a very significant issue. This contract gives us financial stability for the long-term."

But Mr Jones has also raised strong reservations about the financial case for the waste management plant, and claimed that incineration is an outdated form of technology.

He said: "I have said time and again that incineration is not the answer to the county's waste disposal problems.

"The county council should be encouraging more recycling, less packaging and waste reduction not incineration. These options make better environmental and financial sense."

The new plant, which is due to be built at Allerton Park, is aimed at ensuring the two councils reach a target of recycling at least 50 per cent of waste by 2020.

It will also use mechanical sorting and anaerobic digestion to produce green energy.

However, the incinerator is the most contentious element of the proposed scheme, which is projected to save taxpayers up to 320m over 25 years.

A planning application is due to be submitted to the county council in the next three months before a decision is expected to be made in the autumn of next year.