Five years of dedicated campaigning have paid off as plans for an expensive replacement for the Coventry Incinerator have been abandoned. There is already a 260,000 tpa incinerator in Coventry. In 2005 nearby Warwickshire County Council began to make plans for an additional 250,000 tpa incinerator. After much campaigning those plans were dropped. Instead Coventry and Warwickshire Councils agreed to replace the existing Coventry burner with a 400,000 tpa burner.

Eventually, Coventry, Warwickshire and Solihull councils joined together in a waste partnership to successfully bid for a very large and expensive private finance initiative (PFI) scheme – on the basis that the Coventry incinerator was on its last legs and a new one would be needed by 2016.

Due to the ever-decreasing quantities of waste arising, the 400,000 became 350,000 tonnes at the Expressions of Interest stage of the procurement process, and 305,000 by the time the outline business cases were submitted. Project Transform, as it became known, was awarded £129.1 million in PFI funding in June 2009 for an Outline Business Case based on a reference technology of a 305,000 tpa incinerator. In February 2010, the original prediction of 305,000 tonnes of residual waste being generated in 2042 was down-scaled to 286,524 tonnes.

The PFI would have cost around one billion pounds over 25 years for a plant with a £250 million capital cost.

Both Conservatives and Labour Party representatives hailed the decision to ditch the waste PFI plans. Cllr Kevin Foster, Deputy Leader of Coventry Conservatives, welcomed the announcement, saying:

Using PFI to build a new waste to energy plant would not be a good deal for local taxpayers. In December last year we made clear that alternatives based on different technologies and financing options should be looked at, then in May decided that the PFI should be scrapped.

The Coventry Telegraph reported that the £1 billion Whitley incinerator plan [were] scrapped after protests over the huge costs.

Five-year-old proposals for a replacement incinerator at the waste to energy plant at Whitley, Coventry, had attracted widespread protests from green campaigners, families living nearby concerned about pollution, and growing unrest over saddling council taxpayers with decades of debt.

Coventry, Warwickshire and Solihull councils have already spent £1.7m on developing the project – including in consultancy fees. But the councils’ leaders announced they are to pull the plug after a new report by engineering experts concluded the existing Whitley incinerator could be used for another 30 years, without being replaced.

Coventry council’s deputy leader George Duggins (Labour), in charge of the authority’s finances, said:

A lot of money has been spent and people will ask questions about that, but a lot more will now be saved. The £4.5m a year we won’t be spending can now go towards council services.

The local paper also reports how:

Campaign group CRACIN (Friends of the Earth, Campaign for Recycling and Against Coventry Incinerator), has long pointed to councils elsewhere who had ditched similar PFI schemes in favour of refurbishing existing plants. It also called for more environmentally friendly methods of disposing waste.

MRW report how campaigner Keith Kondakor, who has been involved in opposing the PFI since its inception, told MRW reporter Ruth Faulkner:

This is really good news, not just because we have stopped them [the council] wasting all that money, but also because we can now look at doing much better things around recycling and composting in this area with some of the money that has been saved. The hope is that the council will now be able to look at implementing a food waste collection and building an anaerobic digestion plant instead. The analogy I like to use is that the current incinerator is like an old car. It’s probably not the most efficient but at least it’s all paid for. Also, as residual waste arisings fall, the need for a large capacity incinerator is reduced.

Commenting on the engineers’ report, Councillor Harvard told MRW:

It was important to review the scheme, because it was clear we needed to take a good look at the alternatives to replacing the plant with a new, larger, expensive PFI funded energy from waste plant. Now the engineers’ report has confirmed that the existing plant is fit for purpose for the next 30 years, as long as we continue to maintain it properly. In these challenging economic times I’m pleased we are able to recommend pulling the plug on the project.

And according to LetsRecycle’s Chris Sloley, in an article entitled Major doubts cast over future of Project Transform, only two of the three councils involved have plans to reject the scheme.

Coventry city council and Solihull metropolitan council are both set to recommend proposals this month to extend the operational life of the existing energy-from-waste facility at Whitley in Coventry rather than constructing an entirely new large-scale plant…And, while Coventry acknowledged this would potentially spell the end for a new-from-waste incinerator being developed under Project Transform, it also said still seek to work with Warwickshire and Solihull to manage waste disposal collectively.

Meanwhile, Solihull is set to recommend that it withdraws from the project at a meeting on October 12. Speaking to letsrecycle.com, Cllr Tim Hodgson, cabinet member for environment, said that the local authority had opted to assess its involvement in the partnership following the change in administration in May, when Solihull went from a Conservative-led council to a Lib-Dem/Labour coalition.

In a statement issued to letsrecycle.com, Warwickshire county council expressed disappointment about Coventry and Solihull’s proposed withdrawals from the project. Cllr Alan Cockburn, portfolio holder for environment and economy, is quoted as saying:

We respect whatever decision Coventry and Solihull wish to take, but we are hugely disappointed that they appear to be pulling out of Project Transform.

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