EXCLUSIVE - by DOUG COLLIE
The 'flagship' waste treatment facility near Bristol which convinced Scottish Borders councillors they were onto a winner after an expensive visit to the plant in 2014 will remain out of commission until at least 2020 having been completely closed down two years ago because of insurmountable technological issues.
No fewer than sixteen elected members and senior officers from Scottish Borders Council made the 700-mile round trip to New Earth Solutions Group's so-called cutting edge Avonmouth centre which was supposed to convert up to 120,000 tonnes of household refuse each year into electricity via advanced thermal conversion.
A much delayed smaller version using the same processes - it was to cost £23 million - was originally planned for Easter Langlee, Galashiels, to deal with garbage from across the Borders. It was part of a £80 million contract which SBC handed to NESG (now completely bankrupt and dissolved) and the company's offshore "funding partner" New Earth Recycling & Renewables [Infrastructure] - also insolvent and in the hands of liquidators.
Four months after being "impressed and excited" by what they were shown at Avonmouth SBC was forced to abandon their useless deal with NESG who could neither provide the council with a functioning treatment plant nor come up with the money to build it. The end result was a bill for at least £2.4 million for local taxpayers, most of the money having been squandered on costly legal firms and so-called experts. One Edinburgh law outfit trousered £679,000. Not a single brick was laid on site.
The fact finding mission to Bristol proved to have been a complete failure when the spluttering, misfiring flagship was transferred to different owners by NESG for no cash consideration together with accumulated debts running into tens of millions of pounds.
A source told Not Just Sheep & Rugby: "The Borders delegation had been looking at a complete dud while being sold a pup".
Yet Councillor David Parker, leader of SBC in 2014, told the Border Telegraph immediately after the jaunt to south-west England that the visit had been 'valuable and illuminating'.
He went on to claim: "The integrated WTF is a really big deal for our council as it will transform the way we deal with our waste and help us comply with our zero waste obligations.