Tag Archives: Labour

Incinerator – update

On January 26th, knowyourleeds wrote: “Coun Ralph Pryke (Lib Dem, Burmantofts and Richmond Hill), voted for the incinerator when the council was in a Lib Dem – Conservative coalition. But he had evidently done his homework asking considered questions.”

Knowyourleeds is happy to correct this statement. Coun Pryke explains in the following: 

On your entry “Councillors hear out plans for incinerator” you state that I “voted for the incinerator” when the council was in a LibDem coalition.

That is a lazy and often-repeated lie about the administration I was a part of by Labour councillors and activists and anti-incinerator campaigners in Richmond Hill who wanted Labour to gain our council seats (it’s well established that if you repeat a believable lie often enough, enough people believe it).

The truth is on the record in Council minutes because every time Labour councillors proposed a white paper (policy motion) or reference back (request to reverse a decision) which specifically attributed an incinerator to the administration, we used our majority to change the motion or wording to support the policy of seeking a waste solution without specifying any particular technology (such as an incinerator).

It was only in Spring 2010 when the last bidder proposing a non-incinerator solution dropped out of the bidding process leaving only three bidders all proposing combinations of material recovery (recycling) and burning waste to make electricity. As far as I can remember, there were no votes on the proposal between then and May, when Labour took over the Council. As you know, Labour continued the policy, despite opposing it for years.

I realise that is a long explanation that’s unlikely to appear in a blog post, but I’d be grateful if you did not repeat the lie about me and my colleagues. A correction would help.

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Councillors hear out plans for incinerator.

In a packed planning meeting, only a handful of councillors directly queired the 25 year incinerator contract. Photo:©knowyourleeds

At the Plans Panel East meeting earlier today, the general message was clear to Veolia.

Under light interrogation, the executives who delivered Veolia’s hour long pre-application planning presentation was told that councillors needed more clarity about the dynamics of the site and the impact of the 75ft chimney to the surrounding area.

“I asked a simple question and they haven’t been able to answer it,” said Coun Michael Lyons (Lab, Temple Newsam). He was adamant throughout the meeting that someone should answer his question.

He wanted someone to explain how the outsourcing of burning household waste on a 25 year contract worth £550m would be cheaper than using a nearby incinerator site run by Biffa.

The site will be 3.3 hectares and 300 metres from the nearest house. Photo:©knowyourleeds

When the environmental impact assessment comes out in April, Veolia will formalise its proposal to take over the former car-boot sale site in Cross Green Market.

Once they’ve submitted their planning permission application, the Plan Panel will decide whether to press ahead. The panel acknowledged they’ll probably extend the usual 16 week turnaround period to come to a conclusion though it looks likely to be passed.

Then the public will have 21 days to have their say before construction begins early next year.

Veolia said 300 jobs would be created for the construction of the 3.3 hectare site. And they’ll need 45 permanent staff when the plant goes into its 24-hour a day operation.

Up to 70 of Veolia’s own dump trucks will bring waste in and out of the plant everyday – the council has around half that many trucks collecting waste – which will pick up the household rubbish we produce directly from bins rather than a central location.

The incinerator will have greenery, cycle routes and a small car-park around the main facility. Veolia’s excutives also talked about a ‘green living wall’ which will have flowers and trees on the side of the buidling. But local residents won’t be able to see it as it only faces the main road, not the houses.

“Can we actually see the photos from the perspective of where the nearest houses will see it?” said Coun Peter Gruen (Lab, Cross Gates and Whinmoor). The nearest home is 300 meters away from the north side of the proposed incinerator.

Coun Ralph Pryke (Lib Dem, Burmantofts and Richmond Hill), voted for the incinerator when the council was in a Lib Dem – Conservative coalition. But he had evidently done his homework asking considered questions.

“In all the documentation I have seen,” said Coun Pryke, “I’ve not seen anything about any payment for the site. Is Veolia paying rent to LCC for use of this site, or are you buying it from the council, or is it in effect free land and that’s why you’ve chosen to build your facility here?”

Veolia said they'll be no smell and minimal amount of chemicals released into the atmosphere as everything is treated in-house. Photo:©knowyourleeds/veolia

John O’Sullivan, Project Director at Veolia said: “Because the facility is essentially paid for by the council, in discussion with the council’s procurement process, it seemed circular, shall we say, for us to pay for the site that in the end we would have to recover that money back from the council.”

Veolia have consistently pointed out that 200,000 tonnes of black-bin waste in Leeds currently goes to landfill and is financially and environmentally unsustainable.

Councillors now have to weigh up how this controversial plant affects residents against the commercial imperatives of burning waste.

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Final say on Leeds Incinerator?

Veolia will enter a 25 year contract next month to dispose of household waste. Photo©knowyourleeds

Veolia looks set to enter into a 25 year contract with Leeds City Council next month to burn Leeds’ household waste. With a £68.6 million Private Finance Initiative buffer, its estimated value is £550 million.

The proposal for the incinerator based at the old car boot sale site in Cross Green Market wasn’t the biggest. But the capacity to burn 180,000 tonnes-a-year meets the council’s requirements.

As head of east Leeds community activist group COVEN, Sarah Covell is angry that councillors and Veolia haven’t done enough to address the resident’s concerns over the plans.

“They’re saying it’s a landmark building. It is. I doubt don’t that for a second. It’s a very beautiful building. It’s just in the wrong place with the wrong things inside it.”

Artist impression of new multi-million pound incinerator

She’s dismayed that a lack of political pluckiness can dismiss widespread concerns, even when something is opposed so openly.

A group of Labour councillors walked out of a vote last November which recommended the incinerator.

“It’s called predetermination,” said one of the absentees, Coun Ron Grahame (Lab, Burmantofts and Richmond Hill). “Predetermination just takes me out of reckoning altogether.

“I’m not allowed to predetermine the situation for the incinerator prior to it coming to the East Leeds plan meeting. That’s why I walked out. I didn’t give in to myself whatsoever.”

It also took Labour councillors: Mick Lyons (Temple Newsam), Katherine Mitchell (Temple Newsam) and Asghar Khan (Burmantofts and Richmond Hill) out of the reckoning.

According to the YEP, landfill taxes would cost the council £16m a year by 2013. “If we don’t deliver on the timescale mapped out we will put this council is financial jeopardy,” said Coun Mark Dobson (Lab: Garforth and Swillington), the council’s executive member for environmental services, reported the YEP.

“It’s definitely in the wrong site. It should have gone to the Aire Valley where it belongs,” said coun Grahame to knowyourleeds.

Councillors across the political spectrum have expressed concerns over incinerator plans. Coun David Blackburn (Greens, Farnley and Wortley) said at the time: “To go for incineration is the worst decision the council has made for years.”

While Coun Stewart Golton (Lib Dem, Rothwell) blogged: “Since taking power 18 months ago, the Labour Party have been very quiet on their waste policy. I assumed they were working hard on an alternative. Imagine my surprise that their alternative to an incinerator is…an incinerator!”

The proposed facility will create up to 300 jobs during the three-year construction period say Veolia and 45 permanent jobs.

“It’s not local people from East End Park who get the jobs. It’s not just we don’t want this in our ward. We want them [LCC] to look at other methods of residual waste disposal,” said Sarah Covell.

Critics say more recycling options needs to be evaluated. Photo©knowyourleeds

“Somethings gone wrong somewhere,” said Coun Grahame, “the incinerator itself is totally in the wrong place. When they tell you there’s 200 other sites to look at, you look at 200 sites and you think, well it comes down to an old car boot sale site (Cross Green Market) then there’s something not really right.”

Despite these criticisms, Veolia looks set to win the battle. But that’s old news.

The proposals for the incinerator began in 2006 but this week the proposal are open to public scrutiny for the last time.

First stop: Richmond Hill on Thursday, next St Philip’s Church on Friday before finished at 8.30pm, Saturday at Halton Moor Community Centre.

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Fight for Bramley Baths.

The temperature board at Bramley Baths. The decision on if the baths will be passed over to a local community group is due soon. Photo:©knowyourleeds

Whether it’s the local library, the disused cemetery or a decaying pub dating back hundreds of years, local institutions can bring a community together and provide services which we all take for granted.

Bramley Baths is one of them. It’s one of just six Victorian Bath Houses remaining in the country and has survived two world wars, the 1930s depression and countless recessions.

However, this economic downturn may prove to be its downfall.

If local community committee cannot find the cash to keep the public baths and swimming pool afloat by March next year, the Labour dominated council will have to close it.

Leeds’ only female MP, Rachel Reeves, is an emerging force in Westminster. The former economist donned her swimsuit in a campaign to save it earlier this year and has spearheaded a sophisticated campaign to save it.

“It doesn’t make money and as a result it’s on the list for cuts as the Council try and balance its budget,” said Rachel Reeves in an interview with knowyourleeds.

“But I’m not satisfied with that solution. I’m not satisfied because it will mean that it won’t be open for school swimming and it won’t be open in the daytime for older people.”

Local Government funding from the Downing Street is being drastically cut in Leeds. The grant to the council’s budget has been cut by 27% over the next four years. That’s £90 million off the budget this year alone.

Critics however would point to the council’s overspend during the ‘boom years’.

Plaque from 1904 shows a list of committee members. Photo:©knowyourleeds

Also, the reduction in opening hours was originally voted for by Labour councillors at the time. When asked about the irony of a Labour MP fighting against Labour council cuts, she said the council have had little choice.

“The people in Leeds didn’t vote for those cuts. The councillors didn’t vote for those cuts. But we’re the ones who have to bear the brunt of them. I would prefer Leeds City Council to continue funding Bramley Baths but we know that’s not realistic,” she said.

Appointed to the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury after just a year as an MP, she believes that the solution to save it is a community asset transfer.

This means the council would still own the building but the day-to-day running of the baths would be handed over to a community group.

The proposal for that will be vetted by the council early next year. And they have to prove that their plan is viable – self-funded – and can keep the 107 year-old building open.

“We’re not willing just to sit back and let the baths wither on the vine, that’s why we’ve taken action. There’s such a buy-in from the local community, particularly from schools who use it for school swimming, that we can make it work,” she said.

As reported in the Guardian Leeds, although similar handover schemes have failed in Garforth and Beeston, successes further afield in Sheffield, Nottingham and South London have convinced some it can work.

The active backing of a determined local MP, who has considerable weight in Parliament, has helped the cause to save it with much needed publicity. But the real challenge will be to develop Bramley Baths into real workable community space which doesn’t need state support.


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