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Cabinet backs £165m loan for incinerator
A CONTROVERSIAL mass-burning incinerator in Worcestershire is finally on the verge of becoming a reality - after politicians backed a £165m loan to get it off the ground.
Worcestershire County Council’s Conservative cabinet has endorsed a package to bring the massive rubbish building plant to Hartlebury which will handle 200,000 tonnes of waste.
The deal, which has been worked on since the 1990s, will see Worcestershire taxpayers fork out £125m of the loan, with the rest paid by Herefordshire households.
It was backed during a stormy meeting today, in which protestors blasted them with some of the most vociferous criticisms heard inside the council chamber in years.
But it was refuted by the cabinet, with leader Councillor Adrian Hardman insisting they could no longer “kick the can down the road”.
The deal now needs to go to full council for a final vote, and subject to ministerial sign off construction can start in spring for an early 2017 opening.
A report before the cabinet said dealing with all the with rubbish from the two counties will cost a staggering £1.65 billion by 2042, but unless efforts are made to tackle landfill it could top £2.1 billion.
Not pressing ahead with the actual plant will cost an extra £128m alone, partly due to serious fears the county’s landfill sites are forecast to be full by 2024.
At the start of the debate protestors took turns to attack the project, with some claiming there is still time to look at alternatives.
Rob Wilden, from Herefordshire and Worcestershire Action Group, said: “Councillors need to be reminded of their elected responsibility to serve their community.
“You must not take the easy option and vote according to your political leanings - that would show a distinct lack of moral fibre and a flagrant misuse of your elected responsibility.
“In two years time many of you will not be here - think about the legacy of debt you are leaving for those who follow you.
“How many times have I heard ‘this is what we inherited, it’s not our fault’.”
Fellow objector Bill Hopkins said: “My objection is based purely on cost - I put it to you that you are barking up the wrong tree.”
“I think it’s hugely expensive and it’s not going to do the job.”
Other protestors urged them to consider alternatives, saying it will discourage people to recycle at a time when other councils are getting paid to take it away.
But Councillor John Campion, cabinet member for commissioning and transformation said: “People can always say ‘things will change, if you wait longer you will get a better horse to back’, but this decision should have been taken a long time ago.
“I fully understand the fears of residents living by that site and the fear of the unknown.
“Ultimately, the case is proven in terms of affordability and there’s no political wrangling over this, indeed there’s been political unamity.”
“It’s the best option for taxpayers.”
Councillor Lucy Hodgson, cabinet member for localism and communities, added: “Standing still is something we cannot do.
"Landfill is running out, we’ve got planning permission for this, the only thing left was a financial package DEFRA and the Government is happy with.
“This model offers the council the best value for money and we can’t risk waiting to see what’s around the corner.
"The benefit to the whole county is something we cannot ignore.”
Councillor Marcus Hart, the cabinet member for health and well-being, insisted it was “the right decision for the people of Worcestershire” despite being swaying opinions, while Councillor John Smith, who is in charge of highways and transport, said “it is always possible to suggest there will be better systems” in 10 or 15 years.
The site will be run by West Mercia Waste, but when the existing contract signed in 1998 expires it will be handed back to the councils from 2023.
The facility is expected to be operational until 2042, and it will employ 45 people, with 250 jobs created during the three year construction process.
It will power electricity by connecting locally to the national grid.
It will sit on the Hartlebury Trading Estate, and has planning permission already.
Last year 362,73 tonnes of rubbish in the two counties was collected and nearly 200,000 tonnes buried in the ground, costing over £9.8m in taxes.
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