Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Onward to 2011

Waste crisis means 80 giant furnaces set for go-ahead in 2011 (Article from today's Independent)
By Jonathan Brown
Tuesday, 28 December 2010

According to the Environment Agency there are 21 facilities in the UK currently treating municipal waste

A grassroots revolt is growing over a new generation of controversial incinerators planned across the UK, which would see the amount of household waste sent to be burnt more than double. Incinerators are currently being planned on more than 80 sites under the so-called "dash for ash".

The Coalition must decide this summer whether to give its blessing to the £10bn roll-out of the new incinerator chimneys, which continue to meet fierce levels of local resistance from those who would live in their shadow. Concern over possible health risks and impact on property prices looks likely to make incineration one of the most toxic political issues of 2011.

Vehement opposition also comes from environmentalists, who claim that incinerators contribute to greenhouse gases and discourage councils from meeting more ambitious recycling goals.

According to the Environment Agency there are 21 facilities in the UK currently treating municipal waste, while a further eight have been given the go-ahead but are not yet operational. It is estimated that a further two dozen "energy from waste" schemes are still making their way through the planning process or awaiting a final decision from the Secretary of State.

And the waste industry is promising a "step change" in burning Britain's annual rubbish mountain. It believes that "many more" will still be needed in the medium term to meet the previous government's goal of turning 25 per cent of municipal waste into energy to heat homes and provide electricity over the next decade, and prevent Britain from paying millions of pounds in future EU landfill fines.

The UK Without Incineration Network has 80 active groups opposing local developments. One of its co-ordinators, Shlomo Dowen, a former teacher, opposes a new incinerator on a former mine near his home in Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire. The campaign is becoming a test of wills between local people and big business, he said.

"This about people power. Typically people start off from a situation of not giving much thought to what happens to their waste when it goes in the bin. They don't know and they don't want to know.

"But when an incinerator is proposed they become alarmed at the health impact and this gets them to take to the internet. Then they realise they are very expensive and that there are other viable alternatives such as anerobic digestion which is renewable.

"No one is arguing that incinerators improve people's health. The debate is about how much local people's health will be depreciated.

"The waste companies underestimate the level of resistance. They don't care as passionately as people do for their own neighbourhood. To them it's just a job. The more people scrutinise the process the more likely it is to come off the rails."

That resistance now includes the Chancellor, George Osborne, who has added his support to campaigners against a new incinerator in his Cheshire constituency. The Liberal Democrats have have opposed incineration at national and local levels. Political support for incineration looks increasingly uncertain as the amount of waste generated each year by households has been falling steadily and recycling rates increasing. Waste companies however claim there will always be a limit to how much rubbish can be recycled – at around 70 per cent of what we throw away – leaving millions of tonnes each year as a valuable untapped energy resource.

Julian Kirby, Friends of the Earth's resource use campaigner, rejects industry claims that incinerators could help remove 34 million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere by preventing rubbish being buried in the ground where it continues to produce harmful greenhouse gases. "Scratch the surface and you see that, because of all the oil-based materials they burn, such as plastics, they emit a third more CO2 than gas-fired power stations. Add in emissions from biogenic materials such as paper, textiles and food, and they can be more than twice as bad as coal-fired power stations," he said.

But with further capacity for 1.2 million tonnes of waste-burning already planned, the industry is not having it all its own way – despite the backing of business leaders including the CBI, which earlier this year urged councils to bury their objections to building new incinerators.

Both coalition parties are committed to the growth in the emerging anaerobic digestion industry in which biodegradable matter is recycled into renewable energy.

Meanwhile in October seven projects due to be funded under a private finance initiative were scrapped by the Coalition, in several cases on cost grounds – but not before local authorities had spent millions of pounds investigating and consulting on the matter during the lengthy planning stage.

David Sher, policy adviser for the Environmental Services Association, which represents the waste industry, acknowledged the level of opposition.

"While all large infrastructure projects are challenging to deliver, energy from waste projects are still shaking off occasionally held misconceptions that increase that challenge," he said. "These surround their impact on recycling rates and uncertainty over the health and environmental effects of emissions.

"In recent years, significant work has gone into debunking the myths surrounding energy from waste, notably by the Health Protection Agency, showing that any potential damage for well-regulated incinerators is very small or so small as to be undetectable."

Mr Sher insisted: "Energy from waste is a clean, proven and reliable technology and must form a component of sustainable waste management and energy strategies."

23,700,000 tonnes of household waste collected in England in 2009-10 and 1.5m tonnes in Wales.
1,036 kg of waste from typical English households in 2009-10, of which 411kg was recycled.
4,000 Number of landfill sites in the United Kingdom.
9.4 million tonnes of England's household waste is now recycled – 3.3 times the figure in 2001.
70 per cent of what we throw away can be recycled.
25 per cent: the Government target for the amount of municipal waste it wants burnt and converted into household energy over the next 10 years.
21 incineration facilities in the United Kingdom treating municipal waste, with a further eight soon coming into operation.
24 "energy from waste" schemes are in the planning stages or awaiting imminent Government approval.
£48 per tonne – current rate of landfill tax. It is due to rise every April for the next three years.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

This makes very interesting if depressing reading

The bill for PFI contracts is an outrage. Let us refuse to pay this odious debt

The great racket that was private finance now robs the taxpayer of billions that should be spent on nurses and teachers

You've been told that nothing is sacred; that no state spending is safe from being cut or eroded through inflation. You've been misled. As the new public spending data released by the government shows, a £267bn bill has been both ringfenced and index-linked. This sum, spread over the next 50 years or so, guarantees the welfare not of state pensioners or children or the unemployed, but of a different class of customer. To make way, everything else must be cut, further and faster than it would otherwise have been.

This is the money the state owes to private corporations: the banks, construction and service companies that built infrastructure under the private finance initiative. In September 1997 the Labour government gave companies a legal guarantee that their payments would never be cut. Whenever there was a conflict between the needs of patients or pupils and private finance initiative (PFI) payments, it would thenceforth be resolved in favour of the consortia. The NHS owes private companies £50bn for infrastructure that cost only £11bn to build, plus £15bn for maintenance charges.

PFI contracts typically last for 25 or 30 years; in one case (Norfolk and Norwich University hospitals) for 60 years. In 1997 the British Medical Association warned: "The NHS could find itself with a facility which is obsolete in 10 or 20 years' time, but for which it will still have to pay for 30 years or more." No one's celebrating being proved right.

This summer Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, thanks to the extortionate terms of its PFI contract, found itself with a shortfall of £70m. Under other circumstances it would suspend maintenance work and cut ancillary services until the crisis had passed. But its contract demands that it does the opposite: it must protect non-clinical services by cutting doctors, nurses and beds.

If a hospital no longer requires the services it contracted to buy, tough. If clinical needs or local demographics change, tough. Where hospitals can't pay the massive penalty clauses said to lurk in the agreements, the NHS must be reshaped around contractual, not clinical, needs.

The cost and inflexibility of PFI is an outrage, a racket, the legacy of 13 years of New Labour appeasement, triangulation and false accounting. At first sight, it looks as if nothing can be done: contracts are contracts. What I'm about to propose is a wild shot, but I hope it deserves, at least, to be discussed. I contend the money we owe to the PFI consortia should be considered odious debt.
Odious debt is a legal term usually applied to the endowments of dictators in the developing world. It means debt incurred without the consent of the people and against the national interest. While the concept is not accepted by all legal scholars, it has some traction. In 2008 Ecuador refused to pay debts that, it argued, had been illegitimately acquired by previous governments. I believe it applies to at least some of our PFI liabilities.

PFI was a Tory invention but became a Labour doctrine. The 1997 Labour manifesto announced that the party would "reinvigorate the private finance initiative". But it was vague about the detail. Labour frontbenchers had announced that some areas of public provision were off-limits. For example, John Prescott pledged that "Labour will take back private prisons into public ownership". Jack Straw promised to "bring these prisons into proper public control and run them directly as public services". But within two months of taking office, Straw had renewed one private prison contract and announced two new ones. There was no democratic mandate for this policy, which appears to have arisen from secret talks with companies.

Secrecy surrounded the whole scheme. To this day, PFI contracts remain commercially confidential. You can't read them; MPs can't read them. We don't know what we are being stung for or whether the costs are justified. But there are some powerful clues.

Tony Blair's government gave public bodies no choice: if they wanted new projects, they had to use the private finance initiative. In some cases private companies weren't interested, so the schemes had to be reverse-engineered to attract them. In Coventry, for example, NHS bosses originally sought £30m of public money to refurbish the city's two hospitals. When the government told them it was "PFI or bust", the refurbishment plan was dropped in favour of a scheme to knock down both hospitals and build a new one – with fewer beds and doctors and nurses – at an eventual, corporate-friendly cost of £410m. A report commissioned by the local health authority found that the scheme had been "progressively tailored to fit the needs of private investors".

To get their new buildings or services, public bodies had to show that PFI was cheaper than public procurement. The system was rigged to make this easy. They could choose their own value for "optimism bias" in public procurement, which means the amount by which they guessed that a public project might overrun its budget. But, by official decree, optimism bias was deemed not to exist in private procurement.

They could also attach whatever price they wanted to the risk ostensibly being transferred to the private sector. A paper published in the British Medical Journal shows that, before risk transfer was costed, the hospital schemes it studied would have been built more cheaply with public money. After the risk was estimated, they all tipped the other way; in some cases by less than 0.1%.
These valuation exercises were notional anyway, because as soon as a preferred bidder for the contract had been chosen, the agreed prices were junked. The winning consortium had the public authority over a barrel, and could renegotiate at leisure. Desperate public bodies were gulled and outmanoeuvred with the blessing of central government, which sought only to keep the corporations off its back and the liabilities off its balance sheets. Was this a legitimate means of loading our schools and hospitals with debt? I don't think so.

I know that the chances of getting any of this debt recognised as odious, especially by the current government, are small to say the least. But where else do we go with this? I've been warning about inflexible PFI contracts since 1998. I've wasted months on this mission, trying to understand and explain the most complex issue in public life. For all the good it's done, I might as well have gone fishing.

Now I see corporations squatting like great cuckoos on our public services, while officials pour the money that should have been spent on nurses and teachers into their widening bills. Yes, I'm bitter. Yes, I'm clutching at straws. Have you got a better idea?


The above article by George Monbiot is mainly aimed at schools and hospitals but the grotesque imbalance between the commissioners and the private finance companies which he identifies applies just as much, if not more to the huge incinerators which are being built across the country, in the teeth of local opposition, using PFI contracts.

It could be argued that there will always be large numbers of sick people and children needing the services provided by hospitals and schools but it is not possible to state that 30 years into the future we are still going to burning huge amounts of valuable and fast dwindling resources as we do now.

Innovation, government regulation, financial incentives and education are already combining to cut the amount of rubbish that cannot be reduced, reused or recycled and as it becomes more and more commercially advantageous to do so the amounts will fall even further in the future. However if we are locked into a contract for up to 30 years which says we have to pay to incinerate waste we may very well not have what will happen?

My guess is, as Monbiot says, that we will have to pay, pay and keep on paying whether we want to, whether we can afford to, or whether we are still using this outdated form of waste disposal.

It is not hard to see what is in it for the PFI companies but I really cannot see what is in it for ordinary resident of Leeds.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Truth is the first casualty of Politics?

As we have pointed out several times before the Lib Dems undignified attempts to re-write history in this matter does them no credit at all. Their assertions that the Labour party is hell bent of building an incinerator in Cross Green in the face of their unrelenting opposition is simply not true. This process was started by the Con-Lib, Green coalition in 2005. The Green Party left the coalition over this matter when it became obvious that the other two parties were hell bent on using incineration as the preferred method of waste disposal for the city.

It was made unmistakeably plain to our THREE Lib Dem councillors at many meetings of the Richmond Hill Forum from that time onwards that the residents of East Leeds were deeply unhappy with the proposals; felt that their area had been very unfairly targeted for this project because of its deprived status; and that they intended to fight it tooth and nail but at no time did any of the councillors stand up and say that they shared our concerns or that they would back our opposition.

NO2Incinerator understands that the Labour administration is looking into the costs of cancelling this scheme, proposed and promoted by the Con-Lib alliance, but like the aircraft carriers ordered by Labour which the present Con-Lib coalition in national government could not cancel because of the costs it would still incur, Labour might find itself in a similar position in this case.

As an aside, I really liked the quote from Cllr Pryke:

"Leeds Labour say one thing in opposition and then do another when they run the Council"

now if that is not a pot calling a kettle black I don't know what is, as I am sure anyone who has voted for any of the Lib Dems promises which they have now changed would agree.

But really ENOUGH of this "he said", "she said" nonsense!

The impending decision on the Incinerator, whether we should use this technology, and if so, where it should be sited, is a vitally important one with serious consequences for the long term future, not only of our community but the whole city and it is time this momentous issue stopped being used as a political football and started being given the serious consideration it, and we, deserve - get your act together ALL of you, stop the re-writing of history and the cheap points scoring and do what you were elected to do - REPRESENT YOUR CONSTITUENTS TO THE BEST OF YOUR ABILITY!

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Thoughts from the Inner East

On Thursday 21 October 2010 at 6.00pm at the Civic Hall the Inner East Area Committee was given a presentation by the Waste Management firm Biffa regarding their proposed INCINERATOR at the Skelton Grange Power Station Site. The presentation was, as always, very slick and this time interestingly contained the news that they now also planning to include a 200,000 tonne Anaerobic Digestion Plant on the same site.

At one time there where more people from the NO2Incinerator campaign than councillors present despite the time of the meeting making it almost impossible for most to people to attend.

Biffa again trotted out the DEFRA report in support of incineration without mentioning the peer review of this report which was carried out by the Royal Society and states that the first Defra report's conclusions alone should NOT be used to inform public policy on this matter despite the authors of the report saying it should be used for that purpose, both the council and Biffa have ignored this prestigious report from a highly respected scientific body.

They also attempted to prove that having an incinerator on this site would mean less traffic movements in the area than having warehousing, which is what the other half of the site is reserved for, but again this is all smoke and mirrors. They have decided how many vehicles there will be from warehouses that do not exist so yes, they can pluck any number out of the air, how can anyone know how many vehicles will be coming and going from these non-existent buildings - it is all pie in the sky but if you don't look too close it sounds good.

Biffa assert that their plant will be able to process half of all the commercial and industrial waste that the city produces so who will deal with the rest of it - is there another incinerator company out there watching and waiting their chance?

The committee noted the presentation. Everything is on hold at the moment until the planning application is submitted, which is going to be very soon, and when those who oppose this technology in general and this scheme in particular will have a chance to make their voices heard in the planning arena.

In a different but not unrelated item Yorkshire Water has used science to avoid incinerating human effluent and pouring the gases produced into the atmosphere. The will now use this waste to meet their own energy needs making a huge saving of the money and allows the human waste that is left after the whole process to be used as topsoil, they are aiming to be almost energy self sufficient by 2020.

If anything this article shows that what was once regarded as 'problem waste' needing to be burned has become a much sort after product and very clearly shows the folly of seeing household and commercial waste as a problem and not as a valuable product and thereby locking your thinking and infrastructure into simply burning it as 'rubbish' instead of viewing it as the solution.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Spreading the Word

Sarah Covell, a member of the NO2Incinerator Group, and the Richmond Hill elected Representative member on the Inner East Area Committee, was given a chance to speak about the campaign, its aims and ambitions when interviewed by this local media organisation.

She gave the group's point of view in response to an interview which was aired last week with Andrew Lingham from the Environmental Team promoting the building of an Incinerator in East Leeds. Though the council, and for that matter Biffa, prefer to call these projects Energy from Waste plants, presumably because it sounds so much more environmentally friendly and less threatening than an incinerator, but the fact of the matter is that whether they are able to find an outlet for any possible power and heat generated by their process or not, they intend to burn the waste anyway.

This is an interesting interview and you can listen to it at http://www.elfm.co.uk/

Listen and enjoy and, as always, we welcome your comments and feedback on any aspect of the campaign either here as comments or on email at no2incinerator@gmail.com

Sunday, 10 October 2010

The results of our talks with Biffa

As most of our regular readers know Biffa were instructed by the Plans Panel East to go away and have more inclusive talks with the residents of East Leeds before submitting their plans for a an incinerator to process 380,000 tonnes of commercial and industrial waste per year at the old Power Station A site at Skelton Grange. The second such plant proposed in the same small area of East Leeds.

They agreed to meet a limited number of our members at their site for talks which were held on 28 September 2010. Sarah Covell, Sue Lynch, Philip Tempest and David Faranoff went along to speak to them.

The presentation was very thorough and well put together. They had obviously spent a lot of money on glossy brochures, which they were very reluctant to give to us, but the basis of the argument boils down to the fact that the incinerator they plan is just across the river from one of the proposed sites for the Municipal incinerator at Knostrop.

Some of the points raised:

· The incineration process - they brought out evidence to show that the process is safe in modern incinerators and that there are no recorded ill effects from incineration.

· There are equally prestigious studies by renowned scientific bodies contradicting this point of view and some potential hazards which could occur are not monitored at all.

· They say that if we do not burn this rubbish we will have to put it in Landfill

· This is not true - it will have to be dealt with but it does not have to be landfill, in fact we know of no one in favour of that solution.

· They say that their plant processing 380,000 tonnes of industrial and commercial waste per year can produce heat for nearby businesses - Energy from Waste

· There are no businesses near by as yet and if they do not come or do not wish to use the heat for whatever reason it might simply go to waste. Incineration is a very inefficient way to generate this kind of heat.

· They say that they are building a Waste Recycling plant in Leeds and want to recycle more

· We agree and applaud this - but the fact remains that they plan to run this plant for a minimum of 25 years burning waste. If we successfully recycle more and more waste where will their fuel come from?

· The plume from the 90m chimneys will be blown across East Leeds towards Temple Newsam

· There will potentially be two incinerators blowing their plumes in that direction, not counting the two already working and the other industrial processes as well

· There will be jobs for local people

· Well, no not really - the specialised jobs will go to highly trained people working in the industry already. Construction jobs will go to whoever the contractor employed decides and there is no guarantee that they will be British let alone from East Leeds or even Yorkshire as a whole. There may be a possibility of apprenticeships, but how many and if they would be available to the young people of East Leeds on a preferential basis - again there would be no guarantee

· Money from Biffa to recompense the host community for the clear disadvantages of having such a plant

· Well again no guarantees on if, how much and where it would be spent. Whilst it is true that our area will suffer most directly from the plant it will not be the only area of Leeds that will be affected. There may be some money but it will have to go a long way.

After hashing out all the arguments, only some of which appear above, we felt that we could not support the Biffa bid any more than the Municipal one. We are unconvinced of the total safety of the process though we do not buy into some of the more ridiculous health claims put forward. We are unhappy about the effect of one or two of these plants added to the two we have on the already poor air quality in the east of Leeds and we foresee that becoming an incinerator hot spot with one, two, three or four of these plants operating in our area very close to homes, schools and main transport routes will have detrimental effect on the area's chances of real regeneration which its otherwise unique geographical position would provide.

Lastly our campaign has never been one of simple NIMBYism. We definitely do not want an incinerator here so close to our community but neither do we wish to inflict one on any other community either. We feel that if we decided to say "well it is further away and it is not going to cost us anything to build unlike the Municipal one" we would be giving the green light to a process we feel is actually harmful to the residents of Leeds, now and in the future, and which could open the door to even more incinerator operators, after all if Biffa think that they can build this plant and run it at a profit for 25+ years why not someone else?

We listened to Biffa and wish to thank them for their time and trouble but in the end, having weighed the facts as we see them very carefully, the committee voted 9-0 against the Biffa proposals.

Their bid will be going to Planning in the next week or so and we will get a chance to take a detailed look at the fine print. We urge as many of you as possible to go on line and read the documents. There will be hundreds I fear but on such an important issue as this we have to be prepared to do the research and give the material our best attention.

So the fight goes on for the hearts and minds of the Councillors who will make these decisions and the council officers who will advise them. We have little choice in the matter if we intend to defend not only our community but our city from what we feel is a mistaken 19th century solution to a 21st century problem.

Waste should be seen, and indeed become, not a problem but valuable resource to be used properly for the good of the residents of Leeds. We should be lobbying our councillors for better recycling and curb side collections, rewarding households ready and willing to make greater efforts at recycling and using a carrot and stick approach on businesses to keep down or cut out packaging unless it is really needed. After all you don't have to package oranges or pineapples, nature has already done that and with wrappings that can be composted down!

The committee would really like to hear feedback from you on any and all of the above and look forward to adding your comments below.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Air pollution linked to breast cancer

Air pollution and its effects on people was one of the stories on BBCLookNorth yesterday. People who live near busy roads suffer, their lives are shortened by nine months, 7000 need hospitalisation and 500 of them die each year.

Air pollution has been on the news for a number of years, and it has been a major issue for England since the last century.

Now a new study links air pollution directly to breast cancer.

The study, published in the prestigious journal Environmental Health Perspectives, by researchers from The Research Institute of the MUHC (RI MUHC; Dr. Mark Goldberg), McGill University (Drs. Goldberg, Dan Crouse and Nancy Ross), and Université de Montréal (Dr. France Labrèche), links the risk of breast cancer – the second leading cause of death from cancer in women – to traffic-related air pollution.

Dr. Goldberg and his colleagues approached the problem by combining data from several studies. First, they used the results of their 2005-2006 study to create two air pollution "maps" showing levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a by-product of vehicular traffic, in different parts of Montreal in 1996 and 10 years earlier in 1986.

Then, they charted the home addresses of women diagnosed with breast cancer in a 1996-97 study onto the air pollution maps. Their findings were startling. The incidence of breast cancer was clearly higher in areas with higher levels of air pollution.

These findings are alarming. For those of us who already live near the East Leeds Ring Road, the prospect of more traffic being created due to the proposed incinerators is a cause for great concern.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Who says there's no one listening?

NO2INCINERATOR are very pleased to welcome the new initiative from Leeds City Council to promote a REAL consultation process on the building of a PFI funded Municipal Incinerator at either the Cross Green Wholesale Market site or the Knostrop site near by.

As many of you who follow us regularly will know, we have campaigned long and hard for better consultations on this subject and we have even staged two Public Meetings of our own because we felt so strongly that the residents of the area have not been asked for their opinions or given a real chance to ask difficult and important questions. Early evening meetings on dark winter nights in pokey little rooms in Community Centres for an invited audience only was not our idea of consultation at all!

We urge as many of you as possible to go along to these meetings and listen to what is being said. But please remember that Susan Upton and her team have already made up their minds on the value of an incinerator in Richmond Hill, so please check out other sources of information on the subject as well, after all they are hardly going to explain the drawbacks of some PFI contracts or the negative impact of such a scheme on the regeneration prospects of the area now are they. The disruptive affects of noise, traffic, and possible pollution issues will not sell the idea to the community though, if you live close to either of these sites you will hardly need to have them explained I'm sure.

Everyone agrees that the waste problem in Leeds must be tackled now, for the sake of our pockets and our children's futures, and NIMBYism and Luddite behaviour will not help, however it makes no sense at all to lock ourselves into an inflexible 25/30 year contract in such a shifting market.

Re-use and recycling MUST be the most important planks of any waste strategy for the future, with the carrot and stick approach from the council to back it up. The success of the recent pilot project in Rothwell to collect kitchen waste for composting shows the willingness of the people of Leeds to recycle even more if given the opportunity. Slop buckets in the kitchen and regular curb-side collections of ALL recyclable materials surely makes more sense than burying valuable materials in the ground or setting fire to them.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Issue 3 September 2010 Newsletter

Welcome to the 3rd issue of our monthly Newsletter keeping the residents of East Leeds in touch with the latest news on the proposed incinerators in our area.

Our 2nd Public Meeting was held at Richmond Hill Primary School at 7pm on Monday 13 September and a large number of residents turned out to have their say.

Apologies were received from Cllr Tom Murray, Chair of Executive Board for Neighbourhoods & Environments and Richard Brett, local ward councillor. No apologies were received from Neil Evans, Director of Neighbourhoods & Environments but he did send Susan Upton, Head of Waste Management and her team to answer questions which residents felt she had not adequately answered before, Cllr Ann Blackburn, Leader of the Green Party also attended.

A large crowd of residents listened to an introduction and presentation from Sarah Covell from the NO2Incinerator campaign. With the use of both amplification and visuals the residents were able to take a more active part in the meeting and some very searching questions were put to the panel. There to record the events of the evening were both EAST LEEDS FM and John Baron from GUARDIAN LEEDS, these vibrant locally based members of the media have shown a keen interest in this hot issue.

Cllr Ron Grahame was in attendance as was former ward councillor, David Hollingsworth. Both heard the residents state their strong opposition to an incinerator at either Cross Green or Knostrop, either or both of which the residents felt would be damaging to their health, community and their children's future.

Cllr Blackburn explained her party's position on incineration, they're against it, and she suggested several other technologies which would be better suited to the city. The Waste Management team said they felt incineration was the best method at the price but that whilst price was not the overriding factor, the split was 60% process, 40% price, it was a concideration. The residents clearly felt that price had been the deciding factor above the quality of life for local communities.

When asked about compensation for the residents most directly impacted by these plants Cllr Blackburn explained that there is no mechanism for any kind of compensation for the negative impact of the plants on the area and it was not even possible to object to the plants at the planning stage on these grounds either as they do not match planning criteria.

A DEFRA report was circulated at the meeting by the Waste Management team stating that studies had shown that there were no negative health impact from incinerators, however there are many other studies showing a different point of view and internationally renowned scientists such as Prof. Paul Connett strongly disagree with these assertions.

Since the meeting we have discovered that a peer review by the Royal Society was carried out on this document ends with a quite damning assertion on how reliable the report is. There is even a paragraph called uncertainties which recommends it not be used by local authorities to make policy decisions - even though that's what the report's author says it should be used for! It also states that it is based on very few scientific studies (i.e the ones that count) and the data it relies on seems to be predominantly sourced from non scientific government papers and even data from waste companies themselves.

One resident pointed out the amount of air polution in the Aire Valley already which can be seen in the area on still days and asked how much more pollution would be added if these two plants got the go ahead, again Susan Upton and her team had no definite answers but they cannot be in any doubt that one again they have failed to convince those of us who are most immediately affected by the operation of these plants either of their benefits to us as a community or to the city either.

Residents from across the city attended this meeting and one pointed out that we were being asked to take a lot on trust, trust we did not have. She pointed out the area where she lived, Armley, had once been assured that plants like Turner & Newall were safe however by the time it became apparent this was not true the damage had been done. Sometimes the long term health impacts of industry do not become clear until many years after the damage has been done, Cllr Blackburn agreed but the Waste Management team again re-iterated that they were not aware of any studies indicating adverse effects from modern incinertors - well maybe they are not looking in the right places because such studies are certainly out there.

The meeting ended with a vote of the residents present which was unanimously against incinerators in the Lower Aire Valley.

Our campaign is going from strength to strength, gaining more and more knowledge and more and more support across the city and beyond, because this problem is a citywide problem, one way or another the people of Leeds will be impacted by these incinerators either by being under the plume or by having to pay and pay and pay for outdated, inflexible technology which will prevent the people of Leeds from joining the 21st century or both.

Modern technology is changing so fast new solutions are being found for old problems almost daily but if we go down this route we will be tied to outdated methods of dealing with waste for the next 25/30 years, there will be positive dis-incentives to recycle and valuable and finite resources with be burnt just to keep these plants open.

Footnote: We would like to add a heartfelt thank you to all who made contributions both financial and in kind to the campaign with a special thank you to Julie Jones for manning the tea and refreshment trolley.

We will let you know what is planned next but please note that as well as a Blog we now have a Facebook and Twitter page so add us to your friends and get up to the minute information.

Monday, 13 September 2010

They’re at it again – have these people no shame?

The Lib Dems are once again trying to ingratiate themselves with the No2Incinerator campaign by pretending that the plans for an incinerator in this area are nothing to do with them.

This is a lie!

Even when asked at the last meeting of the Richmond Hill Forum to state their opposition to incineration neither Brett nor Pryke would and no wonder, since they have been working on plans for this incinerator for over 5 years. During that time the Cross Green site was one of 4 under consideration and when it became 1 of only 2 sites in the running and the technology to be used was only to be incineration they still said nothing. It was only just before the May local elections when it became very clear that this incinerator was a vote loser that they started to say that they would fight an incinerator at Cross Green. They now appear to feel that putting an incinerator at Knostrop would be a cheap way to buy of the residents of East Leeds - this blatant and bare-faced re-writing of history shows their complete contempt for the people of this area - their constituents!

NO2Incinerator wishes to make it clear once again that the Lib Dems have not opposed placing and incinerator in our ward. They are now trying to suggest that this is all a Labour idea, this is not true either. We hold no brief for either of these parties but we do not want either one of them trying to shore up their vote on the back of misleading information about our campaign.

Councillors were told repeatedly that the residents of East Leeds had not been properly consulted on plans for an incinerator, these concerns were dismissed out of hand, now it is seen as a stick to beat up their political opponents they are up in arms about it.

Again the timing of the latest Focus leaflet is suspicious to say the least, we are holding another Public Meeting tonight and our campaign is building up momentum and gaining respect amongst the ordinary residents of East Leeds and now, by coincidence, a leaflet appears purporting to show how hard the Lib Dems are fighting the incinerator at Cross Green, though you will notice it does not say anything about the Knostrop site just next door.

This campaign is fighting for our area, a job you might think our councillors are supposed to be doing but all of them are apparently too busy point scoring and sniping at each other to do the job properly. It seems that if you want to know what is really happening with the incinerators in our area you should keep reading our Blog or subscribe to our email mailing list at
no2incinerator@gmail.com or our no2incinerator Facebook or Twitter pages and whilst the councillors fight amongst themselves we will do our best to represent the thoughts and concerns of our fellow residents properly.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Incinerator raising the temperature at the Forum

At last night's Richmond Hill Forum meeting, held at Victoria Primary School, there were some very lively views exchanged on the proposed incinerators in Richmond Hill.

Ever since the Waste Treatment plans first appeared on the Forum's agenda several years ago residents have made their strong objections known to our local representatives, apparently without effect, however since the NO2incinerator campaign started gaining ground in the area, indeed across the city and beyond, our local representatives are now having to take notice of our often expressed views.

The mood of the meeting reflected considerable local anger over the whole issue of the sighting of the proposed incinerators, the lack of meaningful consultation with the people most directly affected and the lack of proper consideration of the negative health and development impacts such projects could have on our already depressed and deprived areas.

The Councillors were left in no doubt that the Members of the Richmond Hill Forum expect them to co-operate with each other, regardless of the seemingly endless petty party squabbling, to properly represent the interests and concerns of their constituents - we will be keeping you informed about that!

Don't forget the next public meeting Monday 13th September 2010 at Richmond Hill School - we need to keep up the pressure to be heard

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Are the Residents of Richmond Hill too Negative about the joys of having an Incinerator or two on their Doorsteps!

Well it seems we are - or at least according to Rachael Unsworth, School of Geography, University of Leeds, Director of LISI. Of course, she doesn't live or work in the area nor use its meagre public resources so that might just colour her judgement a bit. According to her:

"The perceived threat of incinerator proposals is unfortunately giving a negative reason for some community cohesion. There is clear tension here between spatial scales with the global, national and city-wide priorities re climate change and resource use clashing with local perceptions of social injustice in the siting of the facility. There is a lack of appreciation by the community of the change in the nature of incineration and of the potential positive benefits of the job opportunities that could ensue both in construction and operation."

So there you have it, the residents here are too stupid to understand that for the sake of the globe; the country; the region and the city we have to put up with these projects and our not perceiving the very positive benefits of having not one but two new incinerators in our area, indeed in some cases on our very doorsteps, is due to our negative, uninformed and incorrect perceptions and not to our genuine concerns regarding the projects themselves. In standing up for our community and our children's futures for the first time in a very long time and banding together to fight these projects we are dismissed as looking at these projects negatively.

It is clear this group only wants community cohesion if it is directed in a way they think is best for this area, an area they don't live in and know little about and care even less. The clear disadvantages this area suffers due to lack of infrastructure, poor quality private accommodation used to house more than our fair share of the challenging people the council has to deal with, poverty, unemployment and poor educational attainment are not to blame for the deprivation to be found here, it is all down to our incorrect perceptions, how patronising is that - talk about talking at us not to us!

These plants will bring jobs - will they - well how many exactly? According to Biffa after construction, which will be undertaken by a large multi-national company whose workers will come from across the globe, there will be precisely 40 jobs at the site, 25 of those for people with highly specialised skills not to be found in the local area so for the sake of 15 unskilled jobs the people of this area are being asked to put up with a large commercial incinerator operating 24 hours a day; 7 days a week; 52 weeks a year - some trade off! The proposed council site is smaller so we can guess that they will need even less local workers.

No2incinerator, the locally based campaign group, about which Unsworth has such negative feelings, does not accept the bland assurances about the safety of the proposed plants, the promised lack of disruption from traffic pollution, noise pollution and vermin infestation which we are worried will affect area and doubts the perceived benefits to the community of these kind of projects, such as the Community Money only on offer if the residents knuckle under and make no objections to the plans.

Since the start of this campaign we have made contact with many groups across the country with similar concerns about the value of incinerators in their communities, and whilst it is true that the vast majority of incinerators are placed in deprived and neglected areas like ours, there are some proposed sites in more affluent areas which are being fought tooth and nail by the local residents, none of whom see the golden future which will be brought about by unquestioningly accepting into their area a project which will not, indeed cannot be foisted on 'nicer' areas.

This is just another self-selecting group trying to manipulate the residents of this area to get their snouts in the public trough. Once again self appointed groups will claim to work on behalf of the residents to improve the quality of their lives, when in effect the only people whose quality of life will be improved will be those in these groups themselves, scooping up scarce public funds for once again telling people in this area what they should want and need but not listening to their concerns or opinions. However when push comes to shove and all the money is gone, they will have something shiny to put on their CV's but once again the residents of East End Park/Richmond Hill will be left holding another bag marked 'empty promises'.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Just look what can be done with education and co-operation

Number of plastic bags handed to supermarket customers falls by FOUR BILLION in 4 years

Decline: The number of single-use plastic bags handed to supermarket customers has fallen by four billion in four years

Decline: The number of single-use plastic bags handed to supermarket customers has fallen by four billion in four years

The number of single-use plastic bags given to supermarket customers has fallen by nearly four billion in four years, according to figures published today.

Some 6.1billion carrier bags were handed out in the year to May - a 43 per cent drop on the 10.6billion recorded in 2006, the British Retail Consortium said.

The cut is greater from the 37 per cent reduction recorded last year.

The total weight of material used for the bags has more than halved over the same period.

The BRC said the figures are a 'ringing endorsement' of the voluntary approach taken by supermarkets at a time when sales volumes increased by more than 6 per cent.

The government, the BRC and supermarkets agreed to a voluntary approach to cut the number of single-use bags given to customers by 50 per cent by spring 2009.

Retailers have adopted a range of tactics to encourage customers away from single-use bags, from hiding them at the checkout to charging a small fee for reusable bags.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: 'This is a tremendous achievement by supermarkets, customers and staff, especially as between 2006 and 2009 the amount of goods sold by participating retailers grew by over 6 per cent.

'The sustained reduction shows that customers are permanently adopting the habit of re-using their bags.

The continuous decrease in total annual bag use demonstrates the voluntary approach continues to make good progress through individual retailer initiatives that take customers with them.

'The reduction in bag use is great news, but it's the halving of the total weight of single-use carrier bags which shows retailers really scoring on the crucial issue of reducing environmental impact.

'Retailers are working hard on a range of other environmental measures, such as reducing food waste, reducing and redesigning packaging, as well as providing customers with recycling information through the on-pack recycling label.'

This is the kind of reduction in quantities of materials sent to landfill or incineration that can be achieved by educating the public and the retailers about the necessity of recycling or re-using of basic everyday packaging.

Source: British Retail Consortium

Think how much more could be achieved in the future with better co-operation and education. This may be good news for the people of Leeds, for the planet and for our children's future but it will not be such good news for the incinerator operators. If this excellent start it sustained and even built and improved upon where will the raw materials for their large waste incinerators come from?

Using innovation and ingenuity it is very possible that household, commercial and industrial waste levels can be brought down very significantly in the next 10 years but what if you have already committed the people of Leeds to an incinerator which needs 180,000 tonnes of household waste a year to sustain it, what if your company has just built a 300,000 tonne incinerator for industrial and commercial waste?

We are told that these plants can manage with less raw product than the figures above but can they operate profitably without that amount? If they need that amount as a minimum to function properly and make a profit will they not, at some point in the future, as has already happened in other areas, start bringing in waste from an ever widening area just to keep the plant running, or perhaps even putting perfectly recyclable waste in the incinerator just to make a profit?

This is something that all the people of Leeds need to think about very carefully, it is not only the communities surrounding these sites that should be concerned, if you live in the surrounding areas you will have traffic and noise pollution but you will also have to live under the plume, under the emissions coming out of the chimneys and drifting across your homes, schools and communities.

You need to find out the facts, how they will affect you and your families, now and in the future, and to have your opinions listened to and respected.

Come to the next Public Meeting of no2incinerator group at:

Richmond Hill Primary School, Clark Crescent, Leeds at 7.00pm on Monday 13 September 2010

Ask your questions, have your say.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Explosion rips through waste plant at Tockwith

Firefighters are tackling a "hazardous" blaze after a chemical explosion near York.

Dozens of firefighters are tackling the fire at BCB Environmental Waste Services on Marston Moor Business Park in Tockwith, following the blast at about 4am today.
Some residents of Tockwith have evacuated the village. Other residents and motorists in the area have been told to keep their windows closed.

A thick cloud of black smoke can be seen for many miles, and is drifting over the village towards York.

Five fire engines are currently on the scene and police are trying to establish what chemicals if any are present in the fire.

Tockwith resident Dave Simpson, an arts journalist for The Guardian, said: "At about 6am I heard what sounded like demolition noises or the sound of a quarry.
"When I got up I saw a massive black cloud over the BCB chemical plant, headed over the village.

"Then there were more noises which it became apparent were explosions. One of them shook my house. The police have advised us to stay indoors and not even walk pets. My partner cannot leave for work.

"My neighbour says the BCB plant is now totally destroyed."
James Moore works on the industrial estate and said smoke from the fire was visible at about 3.45am.

"I could see the smoke at about quarter to four from Wetherby Road, but the flames weren't really visible until about 6am," he said.

"There were a couple of explosions and a big ball of fire at about 7am, by which time they were letting people back into parts of the industrial estate."
Another local resident said she was woken by a "series of bangs" and said she looked out of her window and saw thick smoke.

Earlier this year, BCB was fined £40,000 after admitting three health and safety offences involving its handling of flammable chemicals and its equipment.

First Garforth now Tockwith all I am sure supposed to be safe but how safe are we really going to be?

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Biffa Bribe?

As promised representatives of NO2INCINERATOR attended the Plans Panel East committee meeting yesterday where representatives of Biffa, gave a glossy PowerPoint presentation on the proposed EfW Incinerator at the former Skelton Grange Power Station site.

Several pertinent questions addressed to the Biffa representatives by Councillors Lyons and Grahame went unanswered and it was very plain that the Councillors and local community representatives present were patently unimpressed by their performance.

When pressed on their plans to mitigate any negative effects of the plant on residents of the immediate and surrounding areas they eventually offered the possibility of a fund for community development at the derisory sum of 10p per tonne of processed waste over the lifetime of a 25 year contract, a possible £750, ooo, to compensate the community for the damage done to the environment, the blighting of our children's future and the stigmatising of the area as an incinerator hotspot! Biffa added though that if their plans for the 300,000 Tonne EfW (incinerator) plant were opposed and an appeal was required, even this derisory sum would be used as a Biffa fighting fund and the local community would get nothing!

It is not often you see a group of Councillors rendered speechless but the stunned silence following this remark was palpable in Committee Room 7 at the Civic Hall yesterday. After a collective intake of breath from the assembled Councillors the Chair, Councillor David Congreve (Labour) Beeston & Holbeck, made it plain to the Biffa representatives that the committee and its planning permissions where not for sale at any price and while Biffa backtracked a little on the implication they did not alter their position on this point.

The committee told Biffa to go away and consult more widely with community groups in the area who were obviously deeply unhappy with the ‘consultation’ process so far, but despite there being community representatives available to speak to at the meeting no attempts at contact were made.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Biffa - Another proposed incinerator

Just before we launched this Blog some of us were informed by letter and shiny leaflet of the plan by Biffa to apply for planning permission to build an incinerator at the Old Skelton Grange Power Station to process 300,000 tonnes of rubbish. This huge facility differs from the proposed incinerator at Cross Green or Knostrop in three main ways
* This incinerator will burn non-hazardous industrial and commercial waste; the one proposed by the council will process household waste for Leeds and the surrounding area
* This incinerator will make no attempt at all to recycle any material, everything will be burned; the proposed Household Waste Treatment Plant would attempt to recycle further materials (a process known as ‘dirty recycling’) once the rubbish has been delivered to the site and burn only what can not be re-used or recycled
* This is a private commercial venture. The council’s plan is for an incinerator with start up finance using Government funding in the form of PFI credits, with the rest of the funding coming from the Council Tax payers of Leeds over a 25 to 30 year period

This facility will have the capacity to produce 21 megawatts of electricity, enough to provide the power for 42,000 homes, though there is no guarantee that it will actually do that.

Biffa is a very large and powerful company with both national and international links. It has a great deal of money and connections to put into the project and did indeed splash out on consultation meetings, leaflets and setting up a dedicated web-site for interested people to look at their plans.

The site of this proposed development was one of the four original sites for the building of the Leeds City Council Household Waste Incinerator, indeed it was the most favourable site of the four according to the original Jacobs Report, however without a word of explanation it disappeared from the list of suitable sites and we were left with only the two sites in Cross Green or Knostrop which are, quite literally, on our doorstep.

We are all told repeatedly, by all those involved in these proposed incinerators, that modern incinerators are completely safe; they give off no harmful emissions. That the noise produced by this industrial process which has to run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year will be minimal. Any problems with pest infestation, smells and insects activity, particularly in the warmer months, will not be very noticeable.
Our concerns about the amount of traffic which would be generated by Lorries supplying the raw material for either or both of these plants are more often brushed aside than addressed. The noise and emissions from these Lorries are, we are again told, negligible, we are not in any way convinced of that.

If this plant was to be given the go ahead this area of Leeds, the Lower Aire Valley, would have FOUR incinerators, one landfill and one sewage works.

Our chances of attracting inward investment to an area which would have in effect become an Incinerator Park would, we are sure, be severely damaged.

The residents of this area feel that their concerns and opinions are not being given the consideration and weight they would be given if we were the residents of a leafy and more prosperous suburb.

This area, because of its unique position, being so close to the city centre is ideal for more regeneration. The Victorian East End Park purchased in 1856, is a jewel set in the densely packed housing but with the area having excellent traffic links to the city centre; the transport hub and the suburbs it is an area with enormous potential.

It has been badly neglected for many years. The destruction of the local industries of engineering and tailoring meant many people have left the area and house prices have dropped, leading to many houses being sold to Buy-to-Let absentee landlords but the area has a community and both older residents and newcomers do not want another incinerator here.

They wish to attract more young people into the area to the starter homes at affordable prices and to do that we need to be able to offer the kind of area, facilities and community these people will want to belong to.

The argument is always made, usually by people who do not want these developments themselves, that they have to go somewhere, that it is for the greater good, well the people here feel that they have done more than their share of bearing the burden of cleaning up the waste of this city and have seen nothing in return and it is time for someone else to carry the load for a while.