Incinerator decision was "missed opportunity", says Worcester politician

Worcester News: Councillor Paul Denham: incinerator doubter Councillor Paul Denham: incinerator doubter

THE deputy Mayor of Worcester has labelled the decision to press ahead with an incinerator at Hartlebury as a "missed opportunity".

Councillor Paul Denham, a Labour politician, says other options were "dismissed too quickly" before the £165 million Hartlebury plant was accepted.

The stance directly contradicts the view of County Hall's Labour group, which teamed up with the Conservatives to vote in favour of the rubbish burner earlier this month.

Coun Denham did attend the meeting when the vote took place, but walked out before he could have a say, citing a stomach problem.

He said: "To my mind, protecting the environment is the most important issue here and I'm still not convinced it's the right answer.

"If we cause more damage to the environment it will cause more long term harm to everyone."

Coun Denham was part of a city council group which investigated rubbish disposal several years ago, and said there is alternatives out there.

"At the time I was on that working group we went on a couple of visits to see an 'autoclave' system in Herefordshire (where rubbish is 'cooked' in a giant tub to flatten and soften it) and the county council were actively looking at alternatives to an incinerator," he said.

"That was one thing that was possibly dismissed too quickly.

"I am still not convinced that incineration is the best answer."

The incinerator will handle 200,000 tonnes of waste across Worcestershire and Herefordshire, burning it to generate energy which will collect to the national grid.

Construction is set to start in the spring, with the plant fully operational by early 2017.

It will be operated by West Mercia Waste until 2023, and at that point will be handed back to both councils to manage.

The authority’s officers say although the cost of dealing with the county’s waste by 2042 would be £1.6 billion, not having an incinerator and carrying on using more landfill would see it top £2.1 billion.

That is largely because Worcestershire's landfill is forecast to be full by 2024, so it has to find an alternative.

Of the £165 million loan for getting it off the ground, £125 million will be paid for by Worcestershire taxpayers and the rest Herefordshire.

Councillor Peter McDonald, Labour group leader, said: "I thought it was the right thing in the 1990s and I still believe that's the case now.

"With landfill filling up we had to make a decision, it's not fair on taxpayers to keep on putting it off because there might be alternatives.

"We can't spend millions taking waste outside the county, so for me it was the acceptable way to go."

The construction will create 255 jobs, while 45 permanent roles will be available once it opens.

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