Case Studies

Brighton and Hove City Council, September 2007

“The construction costs of a controversial incinerator project have more than doubled from original estimates…Last night Brighton and Hove City Council agreed to help Veolia meet its financial burden by extending the life of the contract from 25 to 30 years… Councillors feared that if they refused to extend the contract Veolia would walk away. The project would then have to be put back out to tender and be likely to cost even more” [When the risk is that costs could increase Veolia offloads the risk onto the Council, 28 Sept. 2007, www.theargus.co.uk/news/1720827.incinerators_cost_doubles/].

To quote Paragraph 179 of the Audit Commission’s Well Disposed report: “Some WDAs have found that they continued to bear risks they thought they had allocated to a contractor. Such risks include planning delays and technology failures – contractors were able to ensure the WDA bore the risk by threatening to walk away from the contract, leaving the WDA without waste disposal infrastructure”.

Kent County Council, August 2008

Regarding the Allington incinerator contract, the Kent Messenger reported that: “…what was initially seen as a cash-saving opportunity has quickly turned into a money pit, as the council is forced to send increasingly valuable recyclable material to the incinerator in order to meet its annual quota”.

Kent County Council’s Environment Spokesman said of the decision to sign a long-term incineration contract: “What seemed a very wise decision a very long time ago is a very stupid one today. At the time, people were saying nationally that this was the only way ahead. But if you make a prediction for 10 years’ time, the only thing you can be certain of is that it will be the wrong decision. The current closure of the incinerator at the moment is good news, as I have cheaper methods of disposal. Financially, it’s much better for the tax payers if Allington doesn’t work, in fact I’d quite like it…” [Kent’s waste contract could be money in the bin, 12th Aug. 2008, www.kentonline.co.uk/kentonline/newsarchive.aspx?articleid=46264]. Also see Incinerator is burning money, admits KCC, 13 August 2008, available from:
www.kentonline.co.uk/kentonline/newsarchive.aspx?articleid=46328.

This case supports the insight of the Audit Commission that: “If WDAs overestimate the amount of waste they will need to process, both the overall cost and the cost per tonne of waste processed are likely to be higher than they would have been had estimates proved accurate…” (Well Disposed, Paragraph 159).

Hampshire, October 2009

A key element of the business case for incinerators that have been funded through PFI is the accuracy of the projected quantities of municipal waste arising that could be burnt. In Hampshire, Project Integra and the Hampshire County Council Joint Municipal Waste Management Strategy (JMWMS) resulted in the construction of three large incinerators at Marchwood, Portsmouth and Chineham. The original planning consents were specific in allowing only waste from within the County of Hampshire to be burnt. As with Sheffield, these stipulations were subsequently amended because there was not enough waste generated to service these incinerators as originally envisaged, and there was a failure to source feedstock from local businesses. Such local over-capacity contributes to regional and national over-capacity.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council, October 2010

Stoke-on-Trent City Council faced the prospect of a £645,000 fine resulting from a failure to meet minimum contracted waste tonnage levels at their local incinerator [Stoke faces bill for sending less waste to EfW, 22 October 2010, available from www.letsrecycle.com/news/latest-news/councils/stoke-faces-bill-for-sending-less-waste-to-efw].

Sheffield City Council, 2011

Veolia’s incinerator in Sheffield is some 50,000 tonnes short of waste from the city and environs due to higher than anticipated recycling rates. This shortfall gave rise to efficiency problems and to “the boiler being extremely unstable”. It was originally thought that a shortfall such as this could be filled by local C&I waste, but according to Veolia there was an unexpected change in the composition of C&I waste from that assumed in 2001, and too few local businesses were prepared to pay the gate fees for the incinerator charged by Veolia.

Nottinghamshire County Council, 2011

After the waste PFI contract between Nottinghamshire County Council and Veolia was signed, and after the planning application had been submitted, the “brownfield” site chosen for the proposed incinerator was determined to in fact be a greenfield site that supported populations of protected bird species. Planning permission was refused by the Secretary of State in 2011, and the site’s status and the presence of protected bird species contributed to this refusal, as did the lack of robustness of the appraisal of alternative sites. This highlights the importance of due diligence in site selection, and would have been picked up at an early stage had the community been consulted or had the proposal emerged from an existing waste strategy.

Other Case Studies

Nottinghamshire 2008 case study

Sutton Courtenay 2010 case study

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