Click above for what became the consented plan, plus Transport page.


Email grabbed out of cyber-space ..

... Yesterday posted a request to the Audit Commission to investigate the whole history of Essex County Council's handling of their waste strategy, et al. I also asked NAO to investigate Defra's role in the matter. Attached is my submission which, you will note, echoes a number of the threads in UKWIN's recent submission to Defra.

... What would be helpful now is a small flood of campaigners notifying the AC of similar concerns and 'goings on' in their 'neck of the woods'. The current situation in Shropshire reeks of it, for instance. Can I ask you to circulate it urging people to e-mail in to the AC and/or their MPs with anything that they can contribute? No need for massive cases like mine. Just quote any suspicious activity (or lack of same!).

With Best Regards,

The Chief Executive
The Audit Commission
1st Floor, Millbank Tower
London SW1P 4HQ

Dear Chief Executive,



An earlier home page on your website stated that you welcomed reports from the general public about perceived suspicious activity in public bodies. While your current website is not so specific, it does seem to indicate a similar interest. I also note that the Audit Commission Act 1998, Chapter18, Part II, Section 20, Prevention of Unlawful Expenditure calls for you to take action if a body or an officer  “is about to take or has taken action which if pursued to its conclusion would be unlawful and likely to cause a loss or deficiency”. This would possibly  appear to cover the matter that I wish to bring to your attention.

 For some years I have had an increasing concern about the manner in which Essex County Council has been handling the procedures leading to its proposed new long-term waste management contract(s). It is fair to say that my concern is shared with many other people including parish/borough/district councillors both serving and retired. I was, myself, a borough councillor for three years, with a waste management brief, although it is probably more relevant to record that I was, for the last 16 years before retirement, a salesman/manager specialising in the public sector.

Councillors and former councillors who have been consulted on the case include:-

          Cllr James Abbott, Braintree District Councillor
          Cllr Philip Barlow, former County and Braintree District Councillor, Witham Parish Councillor
          Former Cllr Neville Jessop, Former Chairman Sandon Parish Council
          Cllr Trevor Miller, Chelmsford Borough councillor and Great Baddow Parish Councillor
          Cllr Graham Pooley, Chelmsford Borough Councillor

Also consulted are:-

          Mrs Paula Whitney, Organiser Colchester & NE Essex Friends of the Earth
          Mr Rob Hill, Chair Northlands Park Neighbourhood Committee and Residents Association

The County Council’s future waste management project has been underway for well over ten years against, at times, some stiff opposition whereby it would, on occasion, have been politically expedient to accommodate that opposition in some way. That it did not do so meaningfully, may, in itself, be seen as curious. Instead, it has devoted itself to the dogged and resolute pursuit of a high cost, ‘high tech’ solution to the exclusion of full consideration of other potentially cheaper solutions and consequently to the advantage of the major waste management industry and the exclusion of small to medium enterprises.

At Appendix C is assembled a long list of events, anomalies and oversights which, it is suggested, taken together, amply illustrate the resolve of the County Council to achieve its predetermined objective regardless of any other evidence. More to the point of this letter, the list would seem to provide enough circumstantial evidence to justify at least some investigation by yourselves. One, two, three or even four of the instances quoted might be deemed of small consequence. With the number actually listed however, and the nature of many of them, the inference has to be that the County Council has continually and consciously proposed a high cost, long-term strategy without any adequate consideration of alternative, almost certainly cheaper options. Indeed it is demonstrated that they have conspicuously avoided any such evaluation.

In particular they have studiously avoided considering a demonstrably cheaper, full recycling option proposed by consultants commissioned by all the county second tier authorities bar one, an option accepted by the Public Inquiry Inspector in 1999 and also (under pressure) by themselves. Whenever the matter has since been raised by councillors or by the public, the County Council’s tactic has been to ignore it. The option has simply never been considered, including much recent evidence emerging from other councils and WRAP (publicly funded Waste Resources Action  Programme)  studies which uphold the continued relevance of  the consultants’ report.

As an aid to understanding this long running matter, an historical summary is appended at Appendix A and a summary of significant participants at Appendix B.

It is in these combined circumstances of inadequate financial consideration and the long history of apparent manipulation and misrepresentation that I earnestly request you to carry out a detailed investigation into the whole history of Essex County Council’s proposed Integrated Waste Management Contract and determine if it is right to continue with it. It is strongly suggested that until all the matters raised have been fully investigated and received satisfactory explanation, that ECC should not be permitted to complete the contracts it is currently negotiating.

In summary the matters, set out in Appendix C, which you are asked to investigate are:-

  A. How is it that ECC has been allowed to proceed with its plans for an overarching and expensive waste strategy when no genuine comparative evaluation has been made of alternatives especially one which they had once accepted and which has been brought to their attention numerous times? The relevant items in Appendix C which bear on this are:-

1 Intention for an overarching 25 year contract announced at commencement of process

2 Waste Local Plan agreed before Waste Strategy
           3 Appointment of consultants biased towards incinerators

            4 External advice on contract lengths ignored

            5 Improper insistence on “Legal Requirement” for incinerators
6 Disregard of lower cost alternatives including one accepted by public inquiry   inspector
                         7 Disregard of its own Review Commission recommendations

8 Chief Executive avoids studying total recycling and composting scheme on visit to New Zealand

            9 European Journal entry notifying forthcoming contract includes incinerators

            10 Realisation of vulnerability to informed challenge

            11 Manipulation of councillors, second tier councils and the public

            12 The role and influence of officers

B. The following items from Appendix C add further circumstantial evidence to the accusation of adhering blindly to the County’s initial intention but also raise additional potentially serious matters:-

            13 Project Integra and the involvement of Integra Developments Ltd

            14 Apparent conflicts of interest of Cllr Kay Twitchen

15 Questionable relationship between ECC and Gent Fairhead (The owners of the Rivenhall site)

C. The following items 16 + 17 from Appendix C and put to Defra in November 2008 not only increase doubt over ECC’s intentions but also raise serious doubt over Defra’s stance in the matter:-

            16. The Questionable Basis of The OBC Fundamental Argument
            Questions put to Defra in 2008 to which they made no response included :-

            a. Why has ECC exaggerated the ‘waste problem’?

b. Why has ECC sought to make its case for MBTs from the irrelevant figures of waste arising rather than the landfill totals and why has it not projected a decline in these as the County meets its recycling targets?

c. Why is ECC apparently planning MBTs and other residual waste facilities for considerably more than the current landfill amounts?
Is it because it is intended to use the facilities for combined public and commercial use? In which case the following further questions of Item 17 seem to be relevant:
                        17. Rivenhall Major Waste Management Site Planning Application

a. Is a combined public sector/commercial operation part of the Waste Strategy?

            b. How does this impact upon the OBC for a PFI bid?

                        c. What is the impact on funding arrangements for potentially combined sites?

                        d. Has this been taken into account?

                        e. What are the chances of obtaining a licence to handle industrial waste?

f. There is seemingly no intention to compost commercial food waste and vagueness over recycling other waste. What is Defra’s guidance on the recycling and composting of commercial waste?
g. Why has ECC not provided capacity figures for its proposed MBT & AD plants?

h. What is the situation over competitive tendering for the construction and operation of the proposed plants? Is it right for the owners of the three sites to have apparently the automatic right to the contracts? Was this the intent from the very start of the process with the selection of sites for the Waste Local Plan?

j. Why were the seemingly sole tenderers for Rivenhall and Stanway not set capacity and recycling parameters when invited to express formal interest?

k. What is to be the role of the anaerobic digesters and why has the public not been consulted on separated kerbside food waste collection?

l. Why has the demonstrated case for a cheaper, full recycling/composting solution once accepted by ECC and the districts been studiously and consistently ignored?

The latest ‘twist’ to the story is a further public consultation on the Waste Development Document with its proposal to invite tenders for combined public/private facilities at a wide selection of sites throughout the County. This underlines the urgent need to seek satisfactory answers to all the questions set out above and especially those contained in Item 17 of Appendix C. These questions are expanded in Item 18 of the appendix.

It would seem clear that failing adequate explanation to several of these matters, including those put to Defra, the possibility of both maladministration and misconduct in public office has to be considered. Indeed, it would not be too fanciful, failing satisfactory explanation of certain of the points raised, to suggest that the possibility of conspiracy to defraud should also be borne in mind.

It will be noted from the historical summary at Appendix A that in November 2008 The Minster for the Environment was formally notified by Bob Russell MP on my behalf, of concerns, expressed in Items 16 & 17 above, about the validity of the outline business case being presented to them by ECC in order to gain PFI credits. Her response made absolutely no reference to the significant points raised and might even be described as derisory. A subsequent attempt with a new minister to have the concerns addressed fared very little better. I tried, via an FOI request to get a response but this too proved meaningless. Other members of the public have made similar attempts to contact Defra only to receive a standard, inconsequential and factually incorrect response from a Mr Enwright. A letter from the Planning Portfolio Holder of Colchester Borough Council also failed to get an adequate response. In these circumstances it seems right to refer this matter to the National Audit Office also in order to establish if Defra too are acting properly and in the best interests of the public purse.

 I feel sure that the obvious question arising of ‘Cui Bono?’ (Who gains?) will not be lost on you. It certainly does not appear to be the tax payer or the public purse. I feel equally sure that you will find the prospect of a much cheaper future waste management regime of interest at this time of forthcoming public financial stringency.

Copies to:

National Audit Office                                            Yours Sincerely

Chief Constable of Essex                                                                  

Essex County Council

All Essex MPs

(The extensive appendices are not included here!)

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