I am writing to let you know about the current status of WAIL’s efforts to stop the Hartlebury incinerator, and to clarify the position regarding our liaison with Herefordshire and Worcestershire Action Group (HWAG) and with the Friends of Hartlebury.
WAIL was formed early in 2010 as a not-for-profit company with the aim of opposing the proposal to build a huge waste incinerator on Hartlebury Trading Estate, using all available legal and planning channels. During the ensuing months members of WAIL devoted much time and effort inspecting the planning application put forward by Mercia and formulating a detailed case against it. Despite all the sound arguments put forward by WAIL, Worcestershire County Council (WCC) granted planning permission. Undaunted by this setback, WAIL lobbied successfully for a public inquiry, which took place in November/December 2011. Again, despite the many compelling arguments put forward by WAIL, the proposal was passed by the government’s inspector and ratified by the Secretary of State in July 2012.
Now that all of the planning hurdles have been overcome, the incinerator still faces serious questions about its financial viability. WCC is in the process of applying for a PFI contract to fund the incinerator’s construction and operation. This is not expected to come before WCC’s cabinet until September 2013 at the earliest. As a so called ‘Rule Six’ consultee, WAIL has the right to be informed about the proposed funding scheme. We expect, however, that key elements of the financial information will be withheld by WCC. This has been WCC’s practice throughout their lengthy campaign to build an incinerator in Worcestershire. (You may recall that it began over thirteen years ago with the attempt to build a similar facility at the old sugar beet factory site in Kidderminster). Thus, the local electorate will not be given the full facts about the financial implications of building and operating the incinerator, despite it being one of the largest investment decisions in the history of the two counties.
WAIL’s focus during the intervening months has been to investigate any possible grounds for a judicial review of the conduct of the public inquiry and to pursue the question of restrictive covenants which protect properties adjacent to the proposed site from any nuisance resulting from its building or operation. WAIL sought legal advice on the question of a judicial review and was advised that while there might be some grounds to challenge the decision, the costs of doing so were prohibitive and the potential outcome uncertain. Although the restrictive covenants do not come into force until they have been breached in some way, the beneficiaries of the covenants have informed WCC and the owners of the Trading Estate that they intend to enforce the covenants if building the incinerator goes ahead.
In spite of the anticipated handicap of being denied crucial financial information, WAIL intends to use its Rule Six status to question the financial good sense of any funding proposal put forward by WCC. This will be the main focus of the group over the next few months, and it will pursue any viable channels open to it, as a Rule Six consultee, in continuing to oppose the incinerator.
Herefordshire and Worcestershire Action Group (HWAG) became active during late 2012. It describes itself as a ‘peer forum’ whose aim is to oppose the Hartlebury incinerator. WAIL and HWAG share a common objective: to oppose the proposed Hartlebury incinerator. However, the two groups have different corporate statuses, modus operandi, funding sources and distinct memberships. No WAIL committee members are members of HWAG and vice versa. While WAIL supports the common objective, it only endorses its own statements, literature and actions, and not those of any other organisation or individual opposing the Hartlebury incinerator.
The Friends of Hartlebury (FoH) group was constituted in September 2012 to provide a focus for fundraising in order to support initiatives beneficial to the local community. WAIL understands that FoH has no particular brief for any group in the village and that WAIL would have to apply to FoH for any future fundraising proposal. At present WAIL is not fundraising. Any future fundraising efforts by WAIL, should they be required, will be clearly presented as being in support of WAIL.
Chairman of WAIL