MP urges Treasury to block Cornwall's controversial waste incineration plan
Ministers have been told taxpayers could save £320 million if the Treasury blocked a controversial waste incinerator in the heart of Cornwall.
In the House of Commons, Stephen Gilbert, Liberal Democrat MP for St Austell and Newquay, has called on the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, to examine the cost savings to the public purse of the proposed St Dennis plant.
Speaking in a debate before Parliament rose for Easter, Mr Gilbert quoted the recent Eunomia report that suggested the Cornwall Council could make £320 million of savings over the contract period by looking at alternatives to incineration.
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Mr Gilbert said: "I have consistently said that incineration is not the right technology for Cornwall, that one site isn't the right solution and that St Dennis isn't the right place and that there are cheaper, quicker and greener alternatives available.
"The recent report from an independent waste consultancy has shown that the current Cornwall Council administration could be burning over £320 million – that's money that could go into maintaining services or protecting the most vulnerable in Cornwall from the changes to council tax benefit forced through by the Conservative administration.
"We can do this differently and better. It's not too late, though I fear that it soon will be. It is nothing short of scandalous that Cornwall Council is so wedded to an out-dated solution and intent on scarring our landscape and burning valuable resources."
Speaking in the debate, the MP called on the Treasury to look again at the policy in the context of whether it is good value for the public purse and, if necessary, to pull the plug on the scheme.
Responding for the Government, Tom Brake, Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, said: "I can confirm that I am aware of the controversies surrounding such plants, because there is a proposal for one in Beddington in my constituency."
Waste experts Eunomia were commissioned by opponents on the Cornwall Waste Forum to examine the council's 30-year contract with SITA which centres around the now-approved £117 million incinerator at St Dennis, in Mid Cornwall.
They concluded that, over the lifetime of the contract, potential savings of £320 million could be made by pursuing alternatives, such as anaerobic digestion and the sale of recyclable materials – a figure which far outstripped the "relatively small" £125 million cost of abandoning the current deal.
Their findings were debated at County Hall in January, and while councillors expressed their frustrations at the current situation they merely decided to "note" the report rather than pursue its recommendations.