Dursley councillor rubbishes council's defence of incinerator appeal

DURSLEY’S representative on Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) has hit out against Conservative cabinet members for what he claims is a deliberate avoidance of answering questions on the incinerator appeal.

Cllr Stephen Lydon (Lab, Dursley) said the Labour Party is concerned that GCC’s legal defence of the decision not to grant Urbaser Balfour Beatty’s (UBB) planning application for a £500million waste incinerator at Javelin Park in Haresfield is not robust enough.

The council had signed a 25-year contract with the firm to build the facility but the application was unanimously rejected by GCC's planning committee in March.

The plans have proved to be a controversial issue, with protest groups claiming the burning of the county’s rubbish at the site will have far-reaching environmental and health problems for nearby residents.

Cllr Lydon has described the council’s defence of its decision as “laughable” and has warned that the administration had “hamstrung” itself by failing to oppose incineration technology.

Cllr Lydon added that his questions to the cabinet regarding the defence of the decision, and requests for the costs of the appeal process, were “derisory”.

“We as a Labour Group will continue to press for all the facts surrounding the incinerator to be brought into the public domain,” he said.

“We believe that the Conservative county council should support the unanimous decision of the planning committee, and scrap the proposed incinerator.

“The Conservative’s continued support of incineration technology has hamstrung the county council’s legal case and as a result it looks like a laughing stock at the planning appeal.”

In response to the claims, Conservative Cllr Will Windsor-Clive, cabinet member for infrastructure, said that the planning committee’s decision was on several specific grounds that they had chosen.

“The defence of the planning committee’s position has to be on the basis of those grounds, not on points that they did not raise,” he said.

He added that the independent chairman of the planning committee and lead members for each party, including Labour were consulted on three separate occasions by officers and raised no objections.

“I would remind Cllr Lydon that Javelin Park was first identified as being suitable for a ‘strategic’ incinerator by Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors, when they ran GCC, in their Waste Local Plan 2004.”

At the start of the appeal hearing on November 19, GCC’s barrister Richard Elvin QC agreed with UBB about the need for the facility and the suitability of the incineration technology being proposed.

His opening statement revealed that GCC’s position was almost identical to that of UBB’s, aside from the authority’s objections to the size and height of the facility, which Mr Elvin said made the scheme unacceptable.

A GCC spoeksman said the inquiry would likely last until March, 2014 with the planning inspector submitting his reccomendation by July to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, who will make the final decision on the incinerator.

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