By now it’s almost certain that you have heard yesterday’s great news – that Defra has withdrawn Private Finance Initiative support for the incinerator! That puts a £65M hole in the finance for the project (rising to £125M over the life of the plant) and we believe this means the odds are now firmly against the incinerator going ahead.
It’s theoretically possible that NYCC and City of York could try to raise the additional finance, but if they did so, the contracts would have to be re-tendered and further Full Council approvals would be needed. This would mean a delay of years, would completely change the financial equations and would almost certainly mean that developments in waste management would make the incinerator even less viable.
Defra’s statement announcing the decision not to fund three incinerator projects that could have benefited from PFI monies was very brief. It basically said Government had concluded there was already sufficient incinerator capacity built or in the pipeline to meet the country’s commitment to reduce waste going to landfill and no further incinerators were needed. It also urged councils to review waste management strategies to make better use of what is a valuable resource: so much the same as we have been telling NYCC for years!
The two councils’ leaders have been expressing their shock and surprise at the decision given the planning application was not called in for determination at a public inquiry. Our take on that is there may well have been discussions going on between Defra, the Treasury and the Communities Department (the last of which makes call-in decisions) to the effect that there was no point in calling it in as PFI funding was to be withdrawn. In those circumstances a call-in would have resulted in an expensive – but pointless – public inquiry since the scheme couldn’t proceed without PFI monies. Also, since the Treasury’s value for money scrutiny of the proposal could only happen once the planning process had been concluded, a public inquiry would have forced a delay of the announcement of withdrawal of PFI funds – and Government needs to tighten its finances now, not in a year or two’s time.
All that said, NYCC’s track record does not suggest common sense prevails in the corridors of County Hall and it is possible the councils may decide to try to raise finance elsewhere. If they were successful, then the incinerator could go ahead as planning consent has been granted. So it remains VITAL that we continue to do our best to over-turn the planning committee’s decision. Since we only have a three month long window in which to challenge the decision, we are continuing our efforts to secure a judicial review.
No doubt more news will merge over coming days and we’ll keep you posted on developments. In the meantime, give yourselves a hearty pat on the back and have a well-deserved glass of something fortifying in celebration of yesterday’s news: there’s no doubt the vigorous campaigning against this crazy scheme has play a pivotal role. Thank you all for your efforts and support so far – we must continue to work together until we know the plan is finally dead and buried.
PS If you’d like more evidence that what we are saying is correct have a listen to Radio 4’s Costing the Earth. It’s half an hour of common sense.