PRESS RELEASE – 28th February 2020


Community environmental group’s legal challenge to Gloucestershire County Council’s £650 million waste incinerator contract begins March 2nd at Bristol High 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 alleges 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 much of 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.

Recently, Community R4C wrote an open letter to all 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 its website – https://communityr4c.com – it says: ‘This action is not directed against councillors. It is being taken in support of taxpayers and voters and of the environment.’



Editor’s Note

This Press Release is a reminder that we are in court from Monday 2nd March – Wednesday 4th March 9.30am – 5.00pm
Bristol Civil and Family Court
2 Redcliff Street
Bristol  BS1 6GR
We are available to give interviews over the weekend, on Monday morning and throughout the trial period. Please contact Sue Oppenheimer in the first instance. 

Preliminary issues Trial
This is a Preliminary Issues Trial – a critical point in a long running campaign. If the Council loses on preliminary issues they have little defence on the underlying procurement law point, since the increase by 30% in the contract price without competitive tender was a clear breach of procurement law (which does not allow changes of more than 10% without a fresh tender process).

The two preliminary issues are:
Limitation (we were too late to make the claim)
Whether CR4C is an economic operator and could have pre-qualified in a tender process

GCC seeks to show that we knew about the increase in contract value before they released the details on December 20th 2018, and therefore our claim falls outside the 30-day time frame allowed for such a challenge. In fact GCC consistently prevented disclosure despite numerous demands by the Information Commissioner’s office in response to campaigners’ Freedom of Information requests. The ICO ruled in 2016 that all contract details should be immediately released, a decision which GCC fought at a Tribunal and lost in March 2017, at great cost to the tax payer.  GCC then only released out-dated 2013 details. There followed another FOI request and another ICO ruling, which GCC again appealed. They only dropped this appeal in December 2018 facing certain defeat, again having wasted much public money.  Yet again in the trial process GCC refused to disclose information, only to accept when challenged in the courts that they must reveal it, again having to pay costs. So GCC is arguing that we should have known something that they fought very hard to keep secret and we will argue that we had no prior knowledge. 

Qualifying Economic operator
We have produced evidence to the court to show that, not only were we an economic operator but, through our relationship with our sister company Revolution R4C, we would have joined with MBHT technology supplier Biocentre and a number of commercial partners to put in a credible bid which would have achieved the qualifying tests. This was a community defined, commercially delivered project that could have delivered an environmentally sustainable and significantly cheaper waste solution for Gloucestershire.

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.