Incinerator will cost £612million

A WHOPPING £612million would be needed to build and operate a controversial incinerator destined for Suffolk.But councillors today still insist it is the cheapest option to dispose of waste in the county.

A WHOPPING £612million would be needed to build and operate a controversial incinerator destined for Suffolk.

But councillors today still insist it is the cheapest option to dispose of waste in the county.

Despite opposition from Great Blakenham residents, environmentalists, and local politicians, the Government seems certain to back the project by granting the county council permission to borrow more than £100m using the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), about 50 per cent of the building's construction costs.

The incinerator has a projected life of 28 years from the 2014 opening date. The county council said that if it continued to bury rubbish instead of the plans to burn the waste, Suffolk would be fined £800m by the Government in landfill tax.

Although planning permission for the incinerator - which is described officially as an “energy from waste facility” because the residue would be used to generate electricity for local consumption - will not be sought for another three years, the council is to put the project out for tender as soon as PFI clearance has been given.

At the same time, the county council as waste disposal authority is to introduce a crash programme of measures in co-operation with the seven district councils to encourage greater re-use, recycling and composting of Suffolk's rubbish.

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Government approval for the PFI is expected on March 28, which will release £102million via the Waste Infrastructure Delivery Programme, a body whose members include the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The timetable envisages the county council choosing a preferred bidder by June 2010, planning application submitted in September 2011, and the incinerator becoming operational by the end of 2014.

Eddie Alcock, the council's portfolio holder for waste, said the £610m expenditure had to be seen against the alternative of fines calculated at £800m which would be levied by the Government in land fill tax under European Union directives.

Peter Welham, co-ordinator of Suffolk Against Incinerator and Landfill, said £612m was a huge burden for the council taxpayers to shoulder.

He said: “The council should be considering mechanical biodegradable treatment (MBT) of refuse rather than incineration - it is cheaper and is the method Cambridgeshire and Norfolk are to use to tackle the problem of refuse.”

Mid Suffolk district Green Party councillor John Matthissen said incineration was the least environmentally friendly option, with the CO2 emissions having a major impact on climate change.

John Field, the Liberal Democrat county councillor whose division includes Great Blakenham, says he will resist the incinerator because alternatives have not been properly considered and he is concerned at the possible health risks of incinerating refuse into the atmosphere.