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Incinerator plan will not be reconsidered
AN ATTEMPT to make council chiefs reconsider controversial plans for a new incinerator in north Bucks has failed.
Buckinghamshire County Council's scrutiny committee has just ruled against accepting a 'call in' on the decision to award a 30-year contract for the future treatment of waste FCC Environment UK, formerly WRG Ltd.
It is worth £275million.
Campaigners today went to Aylesbury to persuade members to tell Cabinet to re-examine the proposal.
But just one councillor on the committee, Niknam Hussain, voted to 'call in' the decision.
A proposed plant in Calvert, north Bucks, where rubbish would be burned to turn into energy, is the key element of the strategy.
The council says the plant would save it about £100m over 30 years and generate low carbon electricity for up to 36,000 homes.
Councillor Michael Brand and other colleagues requested further scrutiny of the decision.
But summing up in the last few minutes, committee chairman Cllr Lesley Clarke, said: “We have heard from expert witnesses who have responded to the six points detailed in the call-in.
"The committee does not find that there is any reason to refer the decision back to cabinet or to full council. It is clear to this committee that the programme is robust, represents value for money and is capable of delivering what has been promised.”
Fellow committee members, including ex-leader Cllr David Shakespeare, said concerns over the budget, which had been their primary focus, had been allayed following the private section of the public meeting this afternoon.
Cllr Clarke said she was content with reassurances given on the matter.
Cllr Trevor Egleton said: “We have very firm assurance that we are operating within the budget process at the moment.
“I'm not convinced with any of of the issues on the call in that we should refer it back to Cabinet.”
One of the grounds for the case put by opponents was a lack of proper consultation.
Committee Member Michael Edmonds said: “I think it's fair to say that a one of the local members we weren't consulted but having said that I'm convinced having read all the papers that all members of the council were consulted by email.”
Cabinet Member for Environment, Cllr Steven Adams, had earlier defended the decision and denied it had been anything other than open and transparent, saying it has already been through scrutiny seven times.
“We have consulted fully, frankly and completely,” he said.
Campaigners had raised questions over documents where information had been blacked out or redacted.
Cllr Adams said: “There's a reason we have redacted some information because we have to protect the commercial position of the contractor.”
He said it would damage future negotiations with potential partners if certain details were disclosed.
“Redaction is not a lack of transparency, it's a way to protect Buckinghamshire County Council taxpayers' interests,” he insisted.
Cllr Brand said in the earlier exchanges that legal experts had advised the campaigners they had an excellent case but could not disclose all the details today.
Campaigner Michael Barnes said the business case was flawed and went into detail about the financial reports of FCC.
He claimed the deal left BCC with a “great deal of risk” while colleague Peter Evershed labelled the move a 'commercial gamble'.
Already, a sub-plan for an expansion of High Heavens waste centre in Booker, where rubbish will be bulked up before being transferred to Calvert has been approved.
It was given the go ahead despite outcry over an extra 21 lorries per day travelling to the site.
A similar plan for Amersham has, however, been rejected.
Comment from FCC to come.