A SENIOR councillor can’t support Powys County Council’s draft budget for next year, if proposals to take black bin waste to the North Powys Bulking Facility remain part of it.
At a meeting of the council’s Economy, Residents and Communities scrutiny committee on Tuesday, January 30, councillors went through savings proposals from Highways Transport and Recycling Department which include taking Black Bin to the recycling site at Abermule near Newtown.
Next year’s council budget will be £340.7 million with the expectation that a funding gap of £10.652 million will be plugged by cuts, savings, and income generation from council services.
The Highways Transport and Recycling department has offered cuts and savings worth £2.121 million, which includes the £100,000 saving over two years by taking black bin waste to Abermule instead of having Potters in Welshpool deal with the rubbish.
Committee vice-chairman Conservative Cllr Karl Lewis said: “I chaired the (planning) meeting when the proposal for the bulking station came forward.
“During that meeting I felt as did other people in the room that Powys would not go down the route of bringing residual waste there,
“I am disappointed to see this proposal.”
He added that campaigners could have mounted a legal challenge against the site but had not because “they had assurances” that it wouldn’t happen.
“I’m requesting that this idea is dropped,” said Cllr Lewis.
Senior waste and recycling manager Ashley Collins defended the proposal and explained the whole saga to the committee.
Mr Collins said that while some people had objected to the planning application at the meeting in August 2018, Abermule with Llandyssil Community Council had not.
And villagers had only former the campaign group Abermule Communities Together after planning permission for the facility had been given.
Over the next few months opposition to the scheme gained momentum and came to a crunch over a council decision to money around between internal budgets, a process known as a virement, to help fund building the site.
Mr Collins said: “A further report came back to full council on May 3 (2019) which was presented by the portfolio holder at the time, Cllr Phyl Davies.
“He mentioned there were no current plans to take residual waste to the site.
“He was pushed on that point, and he said he couldn’t make a commitment years into the future.”
Mr Collins said that the site had been working “like clockwork” since staff were moved there 18 months ago and recycling started being taken there six months ago.
Mr Collins: “I appreciate it is an issue to the community, but we’ve shown that most of the fears have not been realised.
“The site is operating to a very high standard.”
“If residual was to go there it would be so heavily monitored by NRW (Natural Resources Wales) and if there were any complaints, they would be all over us.”
He explained that black bin waste would be “tipped off” from the bin lorries and then loaded into another lorry for onward transport.
“It’s very much a transitional site, things go in and come out very quickly, ” said Mr Collins.
Cllr Lewis said: “Handling residual waste is a totally different animal to recycling.
“I think it’s important to consult with the residents and let them know what you’re planning to do – you owe them that.”
“I find it very difficult to support the budget if this is one of the savings going forward.”
Mr Collins said that “lengthy” consultations with villagers had already taken place during the NRW permit process – but the suggestion would be “taken away.”
Portfolio holder for finance Labour’s Cllr David Thomas warned councillors that for any proposal to be taken out of the budget, “the probability” is that it would see the Council Tax increase from the 7.5 per cent hike already proposed.
Cabinet is set to receive comments from council scrutiny committees on the draft budget at a meeting on Tuesday, February 6.
Ever since plans for the facility became public nearly six years ago the £4.6 million facility has been a controversial and emotive issue for villagers who have campaigned against it.
It can now operate after it was finally awarded an environment permit to operate by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) in July last year.
This permit allows for black bin waste to be processed at Abermule, but dealing with black bin waste was not included in the planning permission for the site.