Friday, 3 June 2011

Public meeting planned for St Dennis

A public meeting has been arranged for Friday 10th June in St Dennis to discuss what happens now that the Secretary of State has granted consent for the incinerator. It will be held in the Working Mens Club and will commence at 7.00. The leader of the Council has accepted an invitation to speak at the meeting.

In the meantime, my latest column for the Cornish Guardian is as set out below:

Last week the Conservative Leader of Cornwall Council and the Lib Dem MP for St Austell and Newquay debated the outcome of the incinerator public inquiry on the BBC's Politics Show.

It was not a particularly enlightening discussion. Councillor Alec Robertson described the incinerator as a "Liberal Democrat legacy". Stephen Gilbert MP claimed it would be the "folly and legacy" of Cornwall Council's present Conservative-led administration.

So what's the truth? Let's ignore the spin and look at the bare facts.

In 2006, the Lib Dem-dominated county council agreed a contract with SITA, which specified the construction of an incinerator near St Dennis. Thirty-three Lib Dems and two independents voted for the contract. It was opposed by 28 other councillors – only one a Lib Dem.

Over the next two to three years, leading Lib Dems such as David Whalley and Adam Paynter spent a great deal of time criss-crossing Cornwall, preaching the merits of incineration. Then in March 2009, the incinerator was turned down by the planning committee 20-1, with one abstention. In September 2009, when SITA announced it had lodged an appeal, the Conservative leader of the new council attended a public meeting at St Dennis and reassured local people that the council would robustly defend the refusal.

In early 2010, it became apparent that a clause in the contract gave the Cabinet the option to terminate it. At a meeting of the council's waste panel, I called for this option to be properly investigated. This was opposed by the majority of Conservative, Independent and Lib Dem councillors on the panel, and the Conservative/Independent Cabinet voted not to end the contract. At the same time, the leadership refused to work up an alternative (Plan B) to a single incinerator.

Planning staff and local people did robustly defend the appeal but, in April, Alec Robertson turned his back on the people of St Dennis and wrote to the Secretary of State calling on him to uphold the appeal in favour of SITA. He argued that, if the incinerator was not allowed to proceed, the financial consequences to the council would be dire – but Mr Robertson was a county councillor when the contract was agreed in 2006. He was therefore equally aware of the financial consequences of the incinerator not going ahead in 2009, when he cast his vote against the planning application and promised to robustly defend the appeal.

In the ruling, the inspector and Mr Pickles gave significant weight to the contract signed by the Lib Dems, as well as the perceived and exaggerated costs of ripping it up.

The failure of Conservative-led Cornwall Council to work up alternative proposals or identify alternative sites was also cited as a justification to allow the appeal.

St Dennis has been failed by the planning system, the political process and both the Liberal Democrat and Conservative parties.

1 comment:

paul.trevenna said...

Stannary Law may be useful in this instance and its potential explored accordingly