Monday, February 5

The Flames of Rubbish

By Christopher Booker,

Unlikely alliances forged in the flames of rubbish

Anyone concerned with the curious way Britain is now governed might briefly switch their gaze from the sight of policemen trooping in and out of 10 Downing Street to Virginia Water, the well-known Surrey beauty spot. Here, residents are up in arms over Surrey County Council's plans to build a giant incinerator with a chimney 140 feet high, to assist in disposing of the county's 580,000 tons a year of domestic waste. The people of nearby Guildford are equally incensed: 90,000 of them have written to protest at Surrey's plans to build a similar incinerator outside the city.

It does not take long on Google to find similar rows raging across the land, from Sussex to Perthshire, from Dorset to Norfolk. It is only a month since a High Court judge threw out a case in which Ken Livingstone, as Mayor of London, joined with Bexley Council to stop the building of a £230 million rubbish incinerator on the south bank of the Thames. Indeed a striking feature of these battles is how they forge such unlikely political alliances - Ukip-ites in Virginia Water alongside Greenpeace, Lib Dems in Norwich at one with Labour councillors in Cheshire. Everywhere these protesters, having done their homework, make the same points.
Giant incinerators, working round the clock, are an absurdly wasteful way to dispose of rubbish. They use a great deal of energy and generate large amounts of CO2 and hundreds of lorry movements a day (not much fun to live next to).They create much more pollution than their developers like to admit, not least the hundreds of tons a day of toxic ash which then has to be transported 100 miles or more to one of our few remaining hazardous waste sites, such as the one near Cheltenham - which people also do not find it fun to live near.

But what the protesters also discover, as did Mr Livingstone last month, is that there is very little hope of stopping these incinerators being built, because the county and borough waste authorities have no choice. They are forced to put them somewhere because our Government is obliged to implement a waste policy imposed by the European Union, which dictates that by 2020 we must reduce the amount of waste we landfill to a third of its level in 1995. We are so far short of our EU targets that, as the National Audit Office reported last year, our local authorities will soon be incurring fines from Brussels of £200 million a year.

The idea is that we should increase our recycling of rubbish to 27 per cent (which in reality means shipping millions of tons of waste collected for "recycling" to other countries such as China). The only other way we can legally dispose of up to half our rubbish is by building these huge incinerators, which make very little economic or environmental sense, and which cause such distress to those living nearby.

All of which should put the utter shambles this country is making of its waste disposal near the top of the political agenda, not least because there is not a scintilla of genuine democracy in the way in which it is being imposed.

It is obviously no good looking to the Labour Party to do anything about it, because it is locked into the idea that everything imposed by the EU must be obeyed. But it is equally no good looking to the Not-the-Conservative Party to question the policy, since this would raise issues that David Cameron would rule out of order as "banging on about Europe".

So we are stuck, forced to endure a totally absurd system which bears no relation to the particular requirements of the United Kingdom and which is making large numbers of people very unhappy.

The very least our politicians can do is to admit honestly that this is where we stand, and not try to pretend ever again that we live under a form of government that merits the name of democracy.

What continues to amaze is that, after the total shambles of EU environmental policy to date, anyone can possibly think that the EU is "good for the environment".
The cost of EU enviromental policy to Bistish Businesses is massive. Small businesses in particular suffer from the vast amount of legislation that non-sensically impacts on small businesses, a fact that is well known to the Federation of Smalll Businesses (FSB). In the ongoing election for a new National Chairman of the FSB members may well wish to concider that John Wright (see collaborator-v-appeaser_20.html) supports EU environomental policy; though to be fair it is unlikely he is fully aweare of all the details.

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