EXCLUSIVE - by EWAN LAMB
The recommended way ahead for the delivery of Borders waste management services, due to be voted on at a council meeting this Thursday, will prove to be at least £7 million more expensive than developing a modern treatment facility at Galashiels, according to an industry expert contacted by Not Just Sheep & Rugby.
And a detailed assessment of a 31-page report prepared for members of Scottish Borders Council has also pointed up other potential flaws, omissions and anomalies in proposals with revenue implications of more than £60 million over the next 15 years.
Following the abandonment of the council's 24-year contract with New Earth Solutions, the company chosen from several bidders to deliver a Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) centre at Easter Langlee, SBC is now planning to build an extensive (and apparently costly) waste transfer station on the undeveloped site. The station would receive 40,000 tonnes of black bin waste from across the Borders before the garbage is road hauled out of the region to be processed elsewhere.
We showed the report to an experienced waste management specialist with many years experience in the business of refuse disposal, and asked him to comment, particularly on the financial aspects of the so-called Option A which councillors are expected to approve at a full meeting of the local authority.
He told us: "To be frank I could pull this report apart, but I will concentrate on the financial impact. Option A is shown at a net present value of £60.6 million over 15 years. This compares with the cost of the planned treatment facility which would have been £77 million over 24 years. If you adjust the MBT to 15 years the like for like comparison is £53 million at net present value."
But he added that the treatment facility would still have paid back all capital expenditure, and the formula used to calculate project values suggested the original proposal for an MBT would have been some £26 million less than the option now being recommended.
The expert described the price tag for the proposed new waste transfer station - almost £5 million - as "extremely expensive". He added: "The council do not appear to have considered using the current transfer station infrastructure for delivery to the treatment facility. This would have reduced the carbon footprint, traffic around Easter Langlee, and the likely need for a new transfer station".
Option A would significantly increase the heavy goods vehicle movements around the Galashiels site. There could also be financial penalties associated with the increase in SBC's carbon footprint.
The report under consideration claims there is insufficient time to re-procure and construct a treatment facility to serve the Borders before 2021 when landfill bans are due to come into force.
But our assessor commented: "To make such a claim is crazy. A procurement exercise would take 12-18 months with construction taking a similar period. There's plenty of time to embark on this route".
He said the report attempted to compare the cost of a waste transfer station to that of the now abandoned waste treatment facility. But, he said, "The context in which this information is presented is completely disproportionate. The non-financial analysis includes the cost of waste treatment, and has very narrow parameters; for example no consideration appears to be given to additional vehicle movements".
And, according to the expert: "The sustainability report shows a positive outcome for employment. However I would challenge this. A transfer station already operates at Easter Langlee, therefore the relevant staff would continue to be employed, all others will be made redundant. This may have been factored into the business case and financial assessment."
At this stage SBC has not gone through a procurement exercise to dispose of their black bin refuse at a treatment facility outside the Borders.
Commenting on this, the independent assessor explained: "Now that they have announced their intention publicly, they may not be able to secure assumed gate fees (the charge levied on a given quantity of waste received at a processing facility).
"When SBC go to tender the nearest treatment facility will know what the gate fees are at other facilities in Scotland. Therefore they may increase gate fees with this in mind as they know it will cost SBC significantly more to transport waste to a facility further away".