EXCLUSIVE - by DOUG COLLIE
Not Just Sheep & Rugby can reveal that the waste management company awarded a £65 million contract by Scottish Borders Council was sponsoring a Jeremy Irons movie while the council was acting as guarantor for a £315,000 insurance bond the firm could not afford.
The revelation that New Earth Solutions and its offshore funder Premier Group Isle of Man were dabbling in show business but "could not afford to set aside the capital" to cover a requirement from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency is the latest in a long list of embarrassing and incredible disclosures since the contract between SBC and NES had to be "trashed" in February 2015.
New Earth was supposed to look after waste management issues and services in the Scottish Borders for 24 years, and was charged with the construction of a multi-million pound treatment plant at Easter Langlee on the outskirts of Galashiels.
But while the council was squandering well over £2 million of public money on consultants and on procuring and arranging the contract, NES had neither the funds nor the technology to deliver the urgently needed waste management solution.
The 'security' bond was required before an operating licence could be issued by SEPA for the
planned facility at Easter Langlee. The guarantee was to
ensure funds were available should an environmental event occur that required
clean-up at the facility.
It would also cover the cost of cleaning up/getting
rid of any waste left in the facility should NES cease trading. The undertaking
was required to ensure the permit was obtained, and SEPA would not issue a
certificate without it. But the council was forced to step in during 2012 after NES indicated it didn't have the money for the guarantee.
Ironically - or perhaps appropriately - the 2012 'docu-feature' in which NES became the main sponsor was entitled "Trashed". The Blenheim Films production was selected for a special screening at the Cannes Film Festival.
The blurb issued to promote the movie starring Jeremy Irons with music by Vangelis explained how Irons set out to discover the extent and effects of the global waste problem "as he travels the world to beautiful destinations tainted by pollution".
An official press release from Sally Fischer Public Relations told us "This is a meticulous, brave investigative journey that takes Irons (and us) from scepticism to sorrow and from horror to hope".
The lengthy news release goes on to confirm that New Earth Solutions is delighted to be a proud sponsor of Trashed. The firm is described as "a UK based waste treatment and renewable energy specialist dedicated to delivering robust technical and environmental solutions to the UK's challenge of finding sustainable ways to manage the waste society creates, promoting recycling and reducing customers' carbon footprint through quantifiably beneficial processes".
A glowing testimonial for a business which took Scottish Borders Council on a journey of less positive discovery!
And the Isle of Man-based Premier Group, named in confidential council documents as the funders for the Galashiels waste facility, was quick to jump aboard the "Trashed" bandwagon with its own upbeat 2012 news release.
According to Premier's David Mackenzie, the Group's Head of International Distribution: "We are delighted to announce that New Earth Solutions is the main sponsor of a new hard hitting documentary about waste and its impact on the environment.
"Whilst the film does not directly refer to New Earth Solutions, it certainly paints a picture of the growing need for their type of waste management solutions, not just in the UK but globally. The energy from waste initiatives which will be coming online around the year end will also contribute to resolving the problems highlighted by the film".
But as readers of these columns will know, after spending £60 million in a bid to develop and perfect a brand of Energy From Waste technology which was intended for use at Galashiels, NES was forced to dispose of the entire untried, flawed system to its lenders for a pittance. It is a pity that SBC decided to use council taxpayers' money to 'buy' this useless type of waste management kit before it had even been passed fit for commercial use.
The value of the sponsorship invested in Trashed by NES and Premier Group has not been made public. But perhaps there is scope for a sequel telling the story of how a gullible local council spent six years and millions of pounds on a project which produced the square root of nothing. Suggestions for a title on a postcard please....