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Incinerators 6: FOI reveals the surprising truth about the Javelin Park incinerator contract

News of the long campaign against the proposed Javelin Park incinerator was read by many visitors to this site in 2013 and 2015.

This year, campaigners obtained a copy of the contract, after using freedom of Information rules, and the monitoring officer at Gloucestershire County Council has now been asked to investigate whether the leader and his deputy exaggerated the cost of backing out of a plan to commission a £500m waste incinerator.

A resident of the county was contacted and replied that she had read about the discovery in the Gloucester Citizen, which republished an account from Gloucestershire Live, but neither account may now be found online. A search reveals no mainstream media reference to the subject.

Public Sector Blogs drew on an account by Tim Davies, co-founder of Open Data Services Co-operative, co-director of Practical Participation, affiliate at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society:

“The claim made to council on 18th Feb 2015 that it could cost £60m – £100m to cancel the contract appears to be based on calculations from officers, and/or Ernst and Young which have not been published by the authority (perhaps another EIR or FOIA request will be needed here…). The Tribunal ruling refers in Paragraph 27 to a document from Ernst and Young presented to Cabinet in November 2015. However campaigners reading the unredacted contract cannot find the substantiation for the cancellation costs being so high before the facility is operational. It appears breakage before the plant is in operation could cost substantially less than the break-points once it is up and running – and possibly even lower than the £30m the Council has subsequently committed from reserves to cover shortfalls in the project”.

Community R4C, a community-led project promoting a circular economy in Gloucestershire, which published local media accounts of the recent discovery here, has now gone to the council’s external auditor, Grant Thornton. With the help of the Environmental Law Foundation, a case has been put together which, it believes, shows the Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) contract is not value-for-money. It has also approached the Competition and Markets Authority, claiming that Gloucestershire’s contract breaks competition law.

A contributor to Private Eye magazine reports that environmental law expert Raymond Purdy, a senior fellow at Oxford University, has complained about the way Gloucestershire council leader Mark Hawthorne and deputy Ray Theodoulou presented financial details to a crucial meeting. As Tim Davies noted above, it was claimed that to opt out of the contract already signed with UBB would potentially cost £100m.

ELF elaborates: “The contract, originally signed in 2013 and then renegotiated in 2015, for the £500 million incinerator was awarded to Urbaser Balfour Beatty although details on pricing and information on termination were only made public following an Information Tribunal ruling in March this year (2017). In light of this information, and after seeking assistance from Counsel through ELF member, Duncan Sinclair of 39 Essex Chambers, R4C lodged a complaint with the CMA on 21st March that the Javelin Park contract breaches the Competition Act 1998. R4C believe that the exclusive contract is anti-competitive and prevents technological innovation, imposing a huge financial burden for years to come. They state that:

  • the price paid by GCC for waste disposal for a minimum amount is 10 times the next tranche, thereby creating ‘de facto’ exclusivity and foreclosing the market for waste treatment (including eliminating incentives to recycle/move higher up the waste hierarchy);
  • there are excessive termination costs thereby enforcing the ‘lock-in’; and
  • the 25-year contract prevents newer, cheaper and more efficient/environmentally friendly alternatives developing to the detriment of consumers in terms of not only price but also their interest in the environment (both local and more broadly).

If the complaint is upheld there would be serious consequences for Gloucestershire County Council and the residents they are elected to represent.





Incinerators 4: Gloucestershire County Council rejects plan

The accounts of the proposal to build an incinerator at Javelin Park in Gloucestershire have attracted many readers to this site.

glos incinerator imageTo date the news is that the application was unanimously refused by Gloucestershire County Council‘s planning committee which spent a whole day debating it.

There are some reports that Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) is ‘minded to appeal’ but Javier Peiro, its Project Director, said: “UBB is disappointed by the decision made by Gloucestershire’s Planning Committee today. UBB remains contracted to dispose of Gloucestershire’s residual waste and in light of this decision we are considering our options”.

If an appeal is made, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles will appoint a planning inspector to look at the application in greater detail and advise Mr Pickles on whether to support or overturn the refusal decision.

Local journalist Chris Warne summarises:

“The Javelin Park development was perhaps a grave miscalculation by the county council – seeking to impose a mass burn incinerator on a district like Stroud, with its proud tradition of protest and progressive thinking, especially on green issues.

“But if (Eric Pickles) truly believes in localism, he will respect the views of the parish, town, district and borough councils and more than 4,000 residents who expressed opposition to the scheme”.


Incinerators 2: the proposed Javelin Park incinerator (Gloucestershire)

graphic javelin park incinerator

 A report has been produced by Ynys Resources Ltd, a team of waste consultants

It finds that:

  • the need for an incinerator at Javelin Park is not proven and the proposal potentially breaches EU law;
  • more modern and environmentally friendly alternatives to mass burn incineration should be considered such as mechanical biological treatment and advanced thermal technology;
  • the proposed incinerator is so inefficient that it qualifies not as an energy recovery facility but as a waste disposal option – on a par with landfill;
  • the facility would burn a considerable amount of recyclable material and would create around eight times more hazardous waste than was put into it.

“If Gloucestershire were to invest in flexible pre-treatment facilities… capital expenditure would be lower, recycling figures increased, hazardous waste arisings would remain level and opportunities for more efficient use of fuel and heat could be found,” the report says.

Ynys questions the business case underpinning the project, saying ‘rather than providing service and financial certainty, the proposal represents significant risk to Gloucestershire County Council’ because GCC could be liable for annual £1 million penalty payments by 2020 under the terms of the contract.

County councillor Stan Waddington, said the report, commissioned by the campaigning group GlosVAIN, is “fundamentally flawed and full of misinterpretations and inaccuracies”.




Javelin Park 3: request to call in the application for a mass burn facility

javelin park 2 incinerator image


In September and December many readers viewed PCU reports about incinerators – waste to energy installations in planning-speak – and many more find them each week by searching on the term.

The latest SNJ news about the Javelin Park incinerator from Stroud in Gloucestershire reminds us that Gloucestershire County Council’s planning committee is to decide next month whether or not to award planning permission to Urbaser Balfour Beatty for the mass burn facility, adding:

eric pickles 2 call in javelin park incinerator“The contract for the plant has been drawn up in such a way that if councillors were to refuse permission for the facility, GCC would be liable to pay multinational waste firm Urbaser up to £15 million in compensation, meaning the authority has a direct financial interest in approving the scheme.”

The article asks Gloucestershire County Council to contact the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to call in the planning application and place it before an independent inspector, who will be less exposed to the political and financial pressures faced by members of the authority’s planning committee. This would restore trust in the process which was diminished when the case officer in charge of the application was replaced after voicing his intention to recommend it for refusal or deferral.

Another article added a link to an online government e-petition and published an impressive list of organisations, local authorities and individuals who, together with the protest group GlosVAIN, have either already written to the communities secretary asking him to ‘call-in’ the incinerator application or have expressed their strong and unequivocal opposition to it:

Local authorities

– Stroud Town Council
– Stroud District Council
– Stonehouse Town Council
– Nailsworth Town Council
– Painswick Parish Council
– Haresfield Parish Council
– Moreton Valence Parish Council
– Standish Parish Council
– Uckington Parish Council
– Bishops Cleeve Parish Council
– Leckhampton Parish Council
– Randwick Parish Council
– Churchdown Parish Council


– Natural England
– The Cotswold Conservation Board
– English Heritage
– The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE)
– Friends of the Earth
– Gloucestershire Vale Against Incineration (GlosVAIN)
– Gloucestershire Against Incineration (GlosAIN)
– Safety in Waste and Rubbish Disposal (SWARD)
– Blooms Garden Centre


– Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood
– Former Stroud MP David Drew
– Jonathon Porritt (Former director of Friends of the Earth and co-founder of Forum for the Future)



Javelin Park 1: Will GCC approve a Balfour Beatty incinerator despite concerted public opposition – and a poor business case?


Gloucestershire County Council is proposing to build a £500 million Urbaser Balfour Beatty Energy from Waste incinerator at Javelin Park in Haresfield.

UBB officials say it will create new jobs and help the UK meet its renewable energy targets by generating enough electricity from waste to power 25,000 homes.

Alleged vested interests: large power companies and government advisers

A Private Eye journalist reported that 103 incinerator sites were licensed in 2010 and in 2011 DEFRA had 20 more applications from large power companies. Part of the answer was that there are vested interests seeking the proliferation of incinerators. Apart from the companies involved, a large number of government advisers are involved in the expensive and remunerative incinerator PFI deals.

There are several thoughtful and informative articles on the subject by Chris Warne in the Stroud News & Journal.

This plan is opposed by residents, opposition groups and local authorities

Highlighting growing concerns that there will be too many incinerators in the UK by 2015 and that they will severely hamper recycling, Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood tabled Early Day Motion 383, saying that there is mounting evidence that incinerator overcapacity in continental Europe has had a negative impact on recycling performance there and warned that the same problem could trouble the UK.

The motion has received cross-party support – attracting signatures from members of five different political parties, including Daniel Kawczynski (Con, Shrewsbury) and former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas (Green, Brighton Pavilion).

Though all accept that household waste cannot continue to be landfilled, yet there is fierce disagreement about which methods and technologies should be used to dispose of the county’s rubbish.


Gloucestershire Vale Against Incineration (GlosVAIN), which has campaigned long and hard (see flyer opposite), says:

  • the plant will be a blight on the landscape, might well pose a danger to human health and
  • is outdated technology: there are newer, cleaner and more efficient alternatives on the market.

The United States passed laws in 1997 to measure the emissions of smaller particulates which can be absorbed into the blood. They were passed after articles in the New England Journal of Medicine and studies from Harvard Air Effects Institute reported findings that coal-fired power stations and incinerators had a strong association with overall mortality, cardiovascular deaths and lung cancer.

The Health Protection Agency has now decided to commission a major new study to investigate the possibility of a link between incinerator emissions and child deaths. However, preliminary results from that study, which will also examine a possible connection between incinerator fumes and birth defects, will not be available until March 2014, a year after building work is scheduled to start on the Javelin Park incinerator.

Private Eye also pointed out that DEFRA’s emissions monitoring procedures are lax

None of DEFRA’s 62 monitoring stations (one pictured right) are anywhere near an incinerator. A whistleblowing emissions tester contacted the Eye with information that PM 2.5 is not continuously measured and private emissions testing firms have no duty to report test failures to the Environment Agency. Repeat testing is done by arrangement with the incinerator companies who can change the type of waste burnt on the test day. It concludes that existing stations should implement the stricter monitoring regime of the United States.

A Dundee incinerator (built 2000) breached emission limits in 2007 and 2008. Other modern incinerators breaching limits include Dudley, Dumfries, Wolverhampton and Nottingham. A Dumfries incinerator (2009) had 172 reported emission breaches in its first year. The Environment Agency says “none of the breaches would have caused harm to human health” – a very different approach to that of the US Environmental Protection Agency, which in 2009 and 2011 fined Covanta hundreds of thousands of dollars “for emitting cancer-causing chemicals”.

Sue Oppenheimer, the chairman of GlosVAIN has called on GCC to apply the precautionary principle  

She asks for the project to be kept under wraps until the findings of the HPA’s study are known. Stroud District Council, which has unanimously voted to oppose the development, has made the same request.

And even the business case is dubious

Javelin Park incinerator requires a 25-year-contract between Urbaser and GCC for the disposal of household waste produced inside the county. But serious doubts have been raised about whether there is enough waste being created to warrant the construction of an incinerator at Javelin Park. The county council’s forecasts of the amount of waste produced in the county have been shown to be overestimated, with homes currently producing around 20% less waste per year than had been projected – equating to approximately 50,000 tonnes less rubbish per annum for a facility which is being built to process 190,000 tonnes a year.

The only way the shortfall could be made up, campaigners say, is by incinerating more commercial and industrial waste or by importing rubbish to be processed in the plant, which  would be unfair to Gloucestershire taxpayers who are footing the bill for the project.

It was to have been funded partly by central government, with Defra awarding GCC £92 million worth of PFI credits in November 2008, but this funding was withdrawn in October 2010 because Defra determined that the UK had adequate incinerator capacity. Objectors believe that public money not should be used to help to pay for a facility which could be used increasingly by the private sector to dispose of its waste. 

MP Martin Horwood said: “Incineration is not just another waste disposal method. It is costly and unsustainable and actively harms recycling. We need to say no to it in Gloucestershire and across the UK.”