Javelin Park: spearing a bonus for Shire Hall's books
By Simon Hacker | 25th October 2023
Despite its contested value and opaque financial past, could it be that the controversial Javelin Park incinerator, which sits next to the M5 at Junction 12 at Haresfield like a giant tin cathedral, is beginning to prove it was a good idea after all?
Gloucestershire County Council bosses have been updating their 2023-24 financial forecasts and amid the calculations, they believe the incinerator's benefit for the county could deliver £19m in value, heralding a crucial boost for public services.
The site cost £633m to build through a PFI contract stemming back to 2014 with Urbaser Balfour Beatty and now employs some 40 staff. Latest production figures put the amount of the county's waste burned here at 90%; in turn, the process powers a turbine that generates sufficient electricity to keep 25,000 homes up and running.
David Gray, GCC cabinet member for the environment, said: "The council's Energy from Waste facility has allowed us to divert over 90% of our household residual waste from landfill and it produces the equivalent energy to power approximately 25,000 homes per year."
GCC's estimate of Javelin generating around £19m in 2023/24 factors in the high electricity prices which have been allocated by the council to fund important services across the county, Mr Gray said.
Convincing those who fought against the facility looks likely to remain an uphill task: despite claims that the scheme rescues material from landfill, campaigners continue to voice fears that the success discourages a culture of waste avoidance and recycling.
Protestors blocked the facility's first delivery of waste in 2019, and are less evident now, but beyond any environmental debate questions persist over the financial provision for the scheme.
In 2021, GCC brought in auditors Grant Thornton to determine whether procurement laws had been broken; the results were arguably unsatisfactory for all sides, given that the auditors found "the material we have so far considered is insufficient to enable us to reach a firm conclusion as to the lawfulness under procurement law of the modifications".
Javelin Park recovers the energy within waste by burning the leftover materials to create steam in the boiler, which is converted into electricity by a turbine. And if you would like to see the process first-hand, a new series of viewing dates have just been announced, with the next open day being Saturday November 4th.
Dan Pearson, general manager, said: "Following the success of the previous, fully booked events, the open day will once again give visitors the opportunity to learn about the energy from waste process and provide a chance to see the plant and on-site equipment first-hand."
Three one-hour sessions, intended for small groups such as families, couples and friends, and including a maximum of 15 people will b eheld. Sessions are timed from 10am, 11:30am and 1pm, and include a tour of the site. Visitors are also invited to view the different elements of the energy from waste process, including the waste cranes, the combustion grate, and the stack. Allocation is on a first come, first serve basis.
Mr Pearson added: "With three well-attended open days under our belts and exceptional demand for our regular tours, we're thrilled to welcome more residents from across the county for another unmissable day of learning. It's important that we help inform the local community about the benefits of energy from waste and sustainable waste management. We're hopeful that these events are helping people feel more involved with what we do, and we can't wait to share our other upcoming plans - so look out for updates on our website or Facebook group."
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