Letters, January 20, 2011, part one

PUBLISHED: 11:43 20 January 2011

Cost of incinerator

SIR – While the majority of people concerned about the impact of the proposed Hertfordshire incinerator are understandably worried about the health and traffic issues, I think we local taxpayers should also be very concerned about the financial implications of this project going ahead.

I have closely examined the “Outline Business Case” (OBC) produced by Hertfordshire County Council which resulted in them being offered £115 million PFI funding by the Treasury in March 2009 towards this project.

The council’s official line has consistently been that they are “technology neutral” and it is the companies that have chosen to offer incineration.

However the OBC shows that council officials carried out their own “desktop” evaluation before sending out tenders and had already decided that an “Energy from Waste with Combined Heat and Power” facility (an incinerator to you and me) to burn at least 270,000 tonnes of waste each year was what they wanted.

Unsurprisingly, that is what the bidding companies have then offered.

As part of the OBC, the council had to make a number of assumptions to calculate the volumes of waste that would need to be incinerated each year.

Some of these assumptions now look distinctly questionable.

A major assumption made was that the rate of recycling in Hertfordshire would reach 50 per cent by 2014 and then would remain at this level throughout the 25 years of operation from 2015 up to 2040.

In fact, our recycling rate has already reached 50 per cent and there is little reason not to assume it can be increased further over the next few years.

This is likely to be achieved by a combination of better information and explanation to residents, financial incentives or penalties and persuasion (or boycotts) to encourage manufacturers and retailers to use only recyclable packaging materials.

While we may never reach 100 per cent it is entirely possible we could reach 80 or 90 per cent well before 2040.

A further assumption made related to the housebuilding targets then being imposed on the County by the “East of England Regional Spatial Strategy” which demanded that a minimum of 82,300 new dwellings should be built here.

Both the East of England Regional Authority and its targets have now been abolished and, although there will undoubtably be more houses built over the next few years, there are unlikely to be anything like this number in total.

These now invalid assumptions mean that the amount of household waste available to feed the incinerator is likely to fall well short of the amount predicted – and guaranteed – under the PFI contract and for which we taxpayers will be paying for 25 years.

As a result, should it go ahead, this is likely to mean that the company will be able to cover most of its costs from the generous subsidy from Hertfordshire taxpayers and then bring in commercial waste from all around to burn and the payments received from these commercial customers will be largely profit.

Most of the detailed financial information has been removed from the public versions of the OBC documents but they do state that the total costs of the incinerator project (building and operating it for 25 years) will be £1,972,000,000 (£1.972 billion) and include a chart showing the annual costs to Hertfordshire taxpayers costs running from £40 million in 2012 to around £95 million in 2040.

How many new schools, nurseries or care homes could be built or run over the period for this kind of money? Or how many potholes filled?

Please write to your local county councillors now and demand that this unnecessary, unwanted and unjustified project is abandoned now.

CLIVE GLOVER

Woodfield Road, Radlett

Councillor in access road controversy

SIR – I was pleased to see that Martin Hockridge has drawn residents’ attention to the fact that Cllr Jackson was again applying for permission to build yet another house in his back garden.

This time, however, it will be at the inconvenience of the residents of Eastmoor Park and Little Lane who will suffer with increased traffic, building workers and further erosion of our common.

I, too, stopped and spoke to the workers clearing the undergrowth and asked what they were doing. I was told that Cllr Jackson wanted a road through the common to the back of his garden so that another property could be built.

Why is it that people who buy beautiful houses simply have to then try and increase their wealth by building on the land surrounding them?

When we moved to Eastmoor Park some 40 years ago there were strict controls on planning developments affecting the common but this does not seem to be the case today.

Yesterday, January 12, I went into the town council to enquire what the current situation was and was told that nothing had been agreed yet but that, in principle, the council had agreed to grant a wayleave across the common.

I am appalled – in Cllr Jackson’s appeal to the Secretary of State he says “they perceive (the town council) the proposal as an opportunity to open up and rejuvenate a neglected and thus unusable corner of the common”.

Has Cllr Jackson (or John Bagshaw) never bothered to walk around the corner to see the number of children and families (with dogs) who use this part of the common on a regular basis in the summer months?

SHEILA SATCHELL

Eastmoor Park, Harpenden

Penalty priorities are mixed up

SIR – Academics at the University of Hertfordshire are looking into why some people use mobile phones when driving.

People caught doing this receive a fixed penalty notice of £30 for an offence which could cause a serious, even fatal accident. Information relating to this would not be passed on to third parties, e.g. potential employers.

By contrast, somebody deemed to be ‘drunk and disorderly’ could be fined £80 with a penalty charge notice – for an act that may be a nuisance or irritation but not potentially put lives at risk. Further, this could be disclosed to potential employers in an enhanced CRB check.

Priorities seem to be wrong.

JOHNNY BURROWS

Hatfield Road, St Albans

Bring EU to account

SIR – Your correspondents of January 13 noted that the European Union is a thoroughly corrupt and undemocratic organisation which has not filed proper accounts for 10 years.

This is incorrect. The EU has never filed accounts which satisfied the auditors. If an organisation in Britain did not supply audited accounts, then it would be shut down after a couple of years.

It would certainly not be given billions of pounds of taxpayers money, as the wretched EU is.

RICHARD DURRANT

Park Avenue, St Albans

Take some time to preserve our future

SIR – Please spend just five minutes of your time to help protect our lovely green environment around St Albans and Harpenden... for the next 18 years!

SADC are again carrying out public consultation on the long-term housing planning strategy. And so this is your opportunity to say what you think but you’ve got to be quick because the deadline is fast approaching.

I am an apolitical individual: simply a resident who cares deeply about St Albans.

As such, I was profoundly concerned and thus an outspoken critic of earlier proposals that would have decimated huge tracts of Green Belt around St Albans and Harpenden.

However, I’m pleased to say that I believe the council have listened to local people and the new plans are about right.

In an innovative approach, housing targets have been reduced (yet more affordable housing is being provided), Green Belt around St Albans and Harpenden is largely protected and there is a clear aim to prevent the formation of an awful conurbation.

These plans will stop the move towards joining St Albans with Harpenden, Hemel Hempstead, Welwyn-Hatfield and Luton.

For instance, controversial proposals to build more than a thousand homes on the beautiful Windridge Farm, St Albans, are not included. Nor is the equally contentious proposed residential development on the outskirts of Harpenden.

However, I firmly believe it is not enough just to breathe a sigh of relief. Rather, we, as residents, now need to actively support the proposals by responding to the consultation.

If there is little support for the new proposals (only opposition) then SADC may be forced to reconsider yet again and Green Belt could still come into the frame.

By showing our support for the latest Core Strategy in the consultation, we will also provide evidence of the strength of public opinion on this key issue.

This evidence will be invaluable to the council in defending their policy at the Examination in Public before an independent inspector (the final stage of this very long-winded process) – because rich and powerful developers are sure to challenge it.

It should be remembered that these plans will be effective for the period 2011 until 2028.

Let’s be clear, they are the blueprint for development for the next two decades and thus this is probably the single most important issue affecting our environment and quality of life for our generation.

And the questionnaire takes but five minutes to complete.

Relatively little publicity has been given to this latest round of consultation and time is very much against us as the deadline for submitting our views to SADC is February 7.

Responses can be completed online, or by means of a paper questionnaire.

To access the online questionnaire, please follow these steps:

1. Go to the council’s website (http://www.stalbans.gov.uk).

2. Click onto “Shaping Our Community Consultation Public Meetings”.

3. Then scroll down to the fifth paragraph and click on: make your views known “on line”.

4. This links to the page “Shaping Our Community – Core Strategy: Consultation on the Proposed Strategy for Locating Future Development in the District”.

5. Finally, scroll down nine paragraphs and click on to “Opinion Research Services”.

The questionnaire has only 11 short questions about the plans. It’s very easy to complete... once you’ve found it!

Paper questionnaires can be obtained from SADC Offices and libraries. These should be returned to: Shaping Our Community Consultation, Planning Policy Team at the Civic Centre, St Albans.

So, what price five minutes of your time?

DR ROBERT WAREING

Claudian Place, St Albans

Live venue lifeline

SIR – Your readers concerned about the sad demise of the Maltings as a live venue might be glad to know that there is a new venue now open in St Albans city centre – OVO @ Pudding Lane, presenting a range of live shows from theatre through poetry to jazz and popular song.

The venue is above Rymans the Stationers on Chequer Street and details of the current shows can be found on www.ovo.org.uk or by writing to OVO, c/o 29a Chequer Street.

IMOGEN DE LA BERE Becketts Avenue, St Albans

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