PRESS RELEASE – 13 February 2020
For Immediate Release
COMMUNITY R4C WELCOMES GLOUCESTERSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL’s
DISCLOSURE OF ‘SECRET’ DOCUMENTS AHEAD OF JAVELIN PARK HIGH COURT CASE
GCC has complied with High Court order to disclose minutes of a key 2018 meeting of executives responsible for waste strategy
Community environmental group’s legal challenge to £650 million waste incinerator contract begins March 2nd in Bristol High Court
Community R4C has written to County Councillors, explaining action, requesting support
Community R4C has welcomed the release of previously ‘secret’ minutes of a waste policy group meeting ahead of their March 2nd case in Bristol High Court against Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) which alleges procurement law breaches relating to a disputed £650 million waste incinerator contract. The GCC had sought to keep confidential a number of documents, including relevant minutes of the GCC’s ‘Waste Board’, a Council executive board responsible for the waste contract. It was at this Board that decisions were made to enter a new and hugely expensive contract with contractor Urbaser Balfour Beatty, and to keep information regarding this contract secret. The High Court has also agreed that the GCC pay Community R4C’s legal costs incurred in pursuing the disclosure.
Community R4C director Tom Jarman, who will be a witness in the High Court case, said: “We welcome the decision to release these minutes but we wonder why they were withheld at all. The Javelin Park contract has always been shrouded in secrecy by GCC and this is the third time they have wasted public money trying to keep aspects of this case hidden from their own tax payers. They spent over £200,000 unsuccessfully opposing orders from the Information Commissioner to reveal details of the incinerator contracts and now thousands more trying to withhold information that should have been made available to the court.”
The long-running dispute over the controversial Javelin Park incinerator, at Haresfield near Junction 12 on the M5, dates back to 2007, with continuous widespread community opposition on cost, health and environmental grounds. Community R4C is now alleging that GCC broke procurement law in 2016 by secretly awarding consortium Urbaser Balfour Beatty a new contract which, at £650 million, was 30% more expensive than the original £500 million 2013 contract – and doing so without a re-tender.
Community R4C also alleges that the £150 million difference in contract price constitutes illegal state aid. They want this returned to Gloucestershire by Urbaser Balfour Beatty and part of the funds used to ensure efficient recycling for the county’s ‘black bag’ waste before incineration. They claim that as much as 90% of the waste can be recycled rather than simply burned.
Environmental group Community R4C has written an open letter to all Gloucestershire County Councillors to explain why it is taking the Council to court and to seek support. In the letter, which has since been published on their website, https://communityr4c.com , they say: ‘This action is not directed against councillors. It is being taken in support of taxpayers and voters and of the environment.’
Community R4C co-chair Sue Oppenheimer, said: “County councillors have had a tough job understanding the right way forward for waste treatment in the County, only a few now believe incineration is the best option. We are glad that many now see merits of the argument and hope that some, at least, will join with us in working towards a greener and more cost-effective solution to the county’s waste problems.”
For further information contact:
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Community R4C is a Community Benefit Society based in Stroud, Gloucestershire, and registered with the Financial Conduct Authority. In 2016 Community R4C raised almost £100,000 in a ground-breaking Community Share Scheme to facilitate its aims and the building of an alternative waste resource recovery plant – the R4C plant – in co-operation with investors and partners. Community R4C has widespread support, both within and outside Gloucestershire including from well-known campaigners for sustainability including Jeremy Irons and Jonathon Porritt.
There has been widespread and consistent objection to the building of an incinerator on the Javelin Park site in Gloucestershire. Well over 4,000 people wrote to object and the Council’s own planning committee unanimously rejected the plans, yet the plans for the incinerator were finally given approval in 2015 by the then Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, and the plant is now operational.
Documents available on the Community R4C website show the incinerator is very inefficient and expensive. The lack of heat use (combined heat and power) means that almost 80% of the energy available is wasted, and the plant is a harmful emitter of greenhouse gasses and harmful nano-particles. Two thirds of the electricity comes from inefficiently burning plastic, a fossil fuel, and this is even more harmful to the environment than landfill. It burns all material received, yet as much as 90% of this material is recyclable.