Challenge designed to halt award of incinerator contract fails

First published in News Stroud News and Journal: Photograph of the Author by , SNJ reporter for Stonehouse and Chalford. Twitter @ChrisWarneSNJ

A PROCEDURAL challenge intended to halt the signing of a £500 million contract between the county council and Urbaser Balfour Beatty for the proposed Javelin Park incinerator has been thrown out.

Members of the county council’s overview and scrutiny management committee found no grounds for upholding the challenge, known as a ‘call in’, which was launched by 10 Liberal Democrat and Labour county councillors last week.

The cross-party group of councillors raised five points of concern about the decision to award UBB the contract for the facility but each was dismissed one after another by the Conservative controlled committee during a meeting this morning (Tuesday, October 2).

Lib Dem and Labour councillors voiced concerns about where fly ash produced by the incinerator would be disposed of and criticised the decision to sign on the dotted line before UBB had obtained an environmental permit for the plant.

They also argued that by awarding the contract at this stage, Gloucestershire County Council would be putting undue pressure on the planning committee to approve the project because of a compensation clause contained within the contract.

The clause is understood to commit GCC to pay Urbaser around £15-20 million if planning permission for the facility is refused.

Speaking at the meeting, the cabinet member for finance and change, councillor Ray Theodoulou refuted those claims, however.

He said it was ‘insulting to members on the planning committee’ and ‘misleading to suggest that they would vote in any way other than in an independent manner’.

Speaking prior to the meeting, Labour councillor Brian Oosthuysen (Rodborough) said it would be ‘irresponsible’ for the council to proceed with the signing, while his party colleague Lesley Williams (Stonehouse) attacked the Conservative cabinet for failing to listen to the council’s own environment overview and scrutiny committee.

The committee had recommended delaying the project until after the planning application had been heard.

Before the meeting got underway, campaigners from protest group GlosVAIN congregated on the steps outside Shire Hall wearing gas masks and protective clothing to warn that council taxpayers’ money would be ‘going up in smoke’ if the project got the go-ahead.

Chairman of GlosVAIN Sue Oppenheimer, said: "This incinerator is not a done deal. Cabinet say that signing this contract now is prudent, but instead it is reckless and unnecessary."

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