BAN Waste Select Committee evidence

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Phase 1 Day 8 2001-10-29 Gordon Halliday (North East Region Technical Advisory Board on Waste & Northumberland County Council)

report from minutes of Select Committee


The Chair welcomed Gordon Halliday and asked him to make his presentation.

In his brief introduction Gordon Halliday referred to his past experience and his current role as Chairman of the North East Region Technical Advisory Body on waste on the development of a waste strategy for North East England. He referred to his paper (previously circulated and copy attached to official minutes) and said that he had nothing further to add to that.

Accordingly a question and answer session ensued.

(Q1) We have heard from previous Council witnesses that the five local metropolitan boroughs are looking to run a kerbside collection scheme together. However, there appears to be little history of these boroughs working together. What are the implications of such co-operation happening or not happening? (June Wolf)

In response Gordon Halliday explained that RTAB was charged with giving advice to the regional planning body on future waste management options throughout the North East of England. The question of whether the five authorities could work together was a matter for them. The regional waste strategy would identify the best mix of facilities in the north east (e.g. recycling, composting and energy from waste etc) and that whilst he could not directly answer the question it would be hoped that all local authorities would co-operate and work together.

The Chair asked whether Gordon Halliday could say what point had been reached with regard to the kerbside collection system.

Gordon Halliday said that he could not as it had nothing to do with him as a Planning Officer for Northumberland County Council.

The Chair acknowledged this but said that collectively the strategy of the various local authorities would impact on any regional strategy.

Gordon Halliday thought this was putting the cart before the horse. In an ideal world there would be a regional policy consistent with "strategy 2000" and government targets for recycling - then it would be up to the individual authorities to plan their activities accordingly. He confirmed that the regional strategy had not yet been prepared and was a further two years away although the consultants involved in this preparation process had been appointed.

The Chair commented that the regional development agency was planning for growth whilst the regional planning guidance was looking to manage decline - which of these scenarios would the waste strategy fit into when it was produced.

Gordon Halliday said that the consultants had been charged with giving advice to local authorities on waste arisings in the north east (presently growing at 3%) and they would have to look at various projections including population and economic activity and bring forward advice on how to minimise and manage waste in the future. He then explained the process once the regional strategy document had been produced, in terms of consultation and implementation by local planning authorities. He acknowledged that the interim period was difficult for the management of municipal waste in that it was an ongoing process and would not stand still to await the regional strategic guidance - it was an evolving process.

(Q2) How many incinerators were planned in the region? What sites had the planners considered suitable? (Cal Boal)

Gordon Halliday responded by saying that it was not possible at this stage of the development of the regional strategy to indicate whether the regional politicians would say more incinerators were necessary - it was simply to early to say. He reiterated that the consultants were looking at existing facilities against the various projections and they would eventually offer guidance and options for dealing with municipal waste. Local authorities would also have to take into account government targets on recycling and composting etc. As a guidance he briefly explained the sort of options for dealing with municipal waste that the northwest of England (who were slightly ahead of the north east in the process) were putting forward. He again acknowledged that some local authorities in the northeast would already be tied into contracts and that was a constraint on future strategies.

(Q3) From Newcastle's viewpoint your work did not matter in its current position - it needs a system in place over the next two years - so why should Newcastle listen to the regional planning guidance?

In response Gordon Halliday said that the strategy guidance did matter because it looked ahead to 2020 and he suggested that any contracts entered into by Newcastle should be sufficiently flexible in terms of delivery of service to allow for adjustment. Contracts would usually require the contractor to handle a specified volume of waste in line with the regional and national targets - how that was done was up to the contractor and there were new emerging technologies and these would influence how the contractor dealt with waste and possibly modify their facilities. He felt it was not possible to stick to a rigid plan over a 20-year period and said that in Northumberland flexibility in terms of strategy and length of contract was at the present time considered be an important message because of the uncertainties of the future and new emerging technologies.

Phil Capon referred to a previous speaker who had suggested that in the current situation contracts of not more than five to eight years should be contemplated.

Gordon Halliday said he did not disagree with that - in the north east of England great reliance, in the past, had been placed on the availability of landfill and were therefore miles behind meeting any of the governments targets on recycling, composting and recovery targets. Accordingly there was a need for massive capital investment and contractors would say they needed security of contract if they were to make the necessary investment (40 million pounds) - shorter contracts would mean higher prices over a shorter period.

In response to questions in relation to the moral issues of siting energy from waste plant Gordon Halliday said that understandably the siting of incinerators was becoming more and more difficult to accommodate because of the public perception and the uncertainty over dioxins etc exasperated by the absence of clear guidance from the government.

The Chairman thanked Gordon Halliday for his useful presentation.