Buckinghamshire incinerator

The incinerator to burn Buckinghamshire's waste may not go in Bedfordshire after all.

In September last year, Buckinghamshire County Council announced it wanted to work with a company called Covanta to provide an Energy from Waste facility - which is like a giant incinerator - that would deal with the county's rubbish, instead of it going to landfill sites.

Covanta proposed to put its plant outside of Buckinghamshire, at Rookery Pit near Stewartby in Bedfordshire and it beat another company called Waste Recycling Group (WRG) to get the contract.

But council officers are now recommending that Buckinghamshire County Council re-opens discussions with both of the final two bidders.

It's after a legal issue arose during the final investigations (known as Due Diligence) which Covanta was carrying out. It's to do with legal constraints on their chosen site, which "impact on the commercial aspects of their bid".

The County Council says the discovery has affected its evaluation of final tenders, as the matter hasn't been taken into account previously.

At this stage no more information has been given about what the legal issue is.

If the council accepts the recommendations which are being made, it means the process will go back one stage.

Both Covanta and WRG will be invited to submit Final Tenders again (in September) and another decision about who will get the contract should be made by the end of this year.

It means the progress of the project will be delayed by about a year, and the incinerator could be built in a different location.

If WRG get the contract they are proposing to build their facility at Calvert in North Buckinghamshire.

Martin Tett, Cabinet Member for Planning and Environment said: “Officers have put forward the recommendations as a result of a commercial matter which had arisen during the final phase of the project. In order to discuss this matter further, the rules of the competitive procurement process would mean that the Council has to re-open competitive discussions with Covanta and also WRG, who were unsuccessful previously.  If we fail to do this then we could face a legal challenge from the bidders, which would involve substantial delay and cost to the Council.  It could also potentially result in the case being referred to the European Court of Justice. 

“Unfortunately I am unable to disclose precise details of the legal constraints on Covanta’s site as the matter is commercially confidential to Covanta.  Disclosing details could prejudice the competitive procurement process.

“I understand this may raise concerns for some of our residents, however I would like to reassure them that if the decision to re-open the final stages of the competition is taken then we will continue to follow a robust procurement process.  This will ensure that the selected bidder provides the best solution for the people of Buckinghamshire.”

Meanwhile campaigners in Bedfordshire say they hope the legal issue will mean the proposed plant near Stewartby does not go ahead: "It's an opportunity for Buckinghamshire County Council to take responsibility for its own waste", said Hugh Roberts from the Marston Mortaine Action Group.

"From a Bedfordshire point of view we hear this news with undisguised glee!  We don't want to see this happen, and hope it leads to problems."

You can listen to Mathew Williams' interview with Hugh Roberts by clicking here...