Assembly Government needs to speak up for people of Merthyr

The Merthyr Liberal Democrats first became aware of Covanta’s proposals for an incinerator in 2008 and immediately organised a public meeting in the town centre.

From then on we have been trying to raise awareness of this issue.

This is not what some might describe as Nimbyism (‘Not in my back yard’). This is making sensible arguments against proposals that are too large and clearly contradict Welsh Assembly Government policy.

For example, the Government’s policy on waste states that any incinerator needs to function at 60% efficiency (or better) in order to be environmentally acceptable. To achieve this, incinerators must generate electricity and fully utilise the heat as heating for homes and for industry. These proposals suggest this will not be the case.

The size of the plan would demand that Assembly Government accept this single incinerator to deal with all the residual waste in Wales. That would require waste to be moved from all aprts of Wales. This is also against Assembly Government policy.

The incinerator planning process is an example of democracy not working. The consultation with local residents has been poor. It is startling the number of people I have spoken to who weren’t aware of the proposals, or at least were not aware of the size of the development planned.

I must question the Assembly Government’s role in these proposals.

Only recently I quizzed the First Minister on his Government’s involvement in the proposed incinerator. He informed me that it was “not a matter for the Welsh Assembly Government” !

In the past the First Minister has said that he would not be able to intervene because his Government was not a statutory consultee in the IPC’s (Infrastructure Planning Committee) application process. However, on the IPC website, it clearly states that the Assembly Government is a statutory consultee at both the pre-application and examination stage of the process.

The fact is that the Assembly Government could have influence if it wanted to. Carwyn Jones needs to explain why his Government has decided to stay silent on this.

The IPC suggest it may be useful for the local authority to receive comments from local people to help them compose a Local Impact Report. I believe there is a strong moral obligation for Merthyr Council to do this and I suggest that residents send their views to the Leader of the Council.

The incinerator would create a handful of jobs, but this would be incredibly short sighted: A recent report showed that increased recycling could provide more than 3,000 new ‘Green Jobs’ in the Heads of the Valleys. The research said that recycling creates 10 times as many jobs as incineration and the region could have a green, successful and thriving future. This is the direction the region needs to be heading, rather than the unsustainable incinerator.

First published in Merthyr Express.

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