Wednesday, 30 May 2018

"Dud" treatment plant stays shut till at least 2020


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.

“It also involves a major investment, in partnership with NES, which requires councillors to carry out due diligence and, in that respect, the trip was necessary. I am satisfied after our visit that we are on the right track and confident that the WTF will be up and running before the 2019 contract deadline, hopefully by mid-2017.”
The thermal technology flagship is now in the ownership of Avonmouth Bio Power Ltd whose latest annual report has just been published. The plant itself has not been operating since 2016.
According to the report: "From commencement the plant always operated at below its design point and this led to reduced thermal output and reduced availability. This lack of performance, and hence lack of revenue generation resulted in the decision to suspend operations at the plant with a view to implementing a major redevelopment programme".
Proposals for redevelopment have, it is claimed, been "materially progressed" over the last year.
"Detailed redevelopment plans are currently being finalised and it is anticipated that these works will commence during the first half of 2018 and that operations at the plant may recommence in early 2020". That target is said to "remain realistic".
Meanwhile the company's loss for the financial year is given as £6.146 million, ten times greater than the £620,000 deficit in 2016. Creditors are owed £16.480 million within 12 months (up from £13.171 million).
Avonmouth Bio Power has net liabilities of £12.490 million (£6.343 million the previous year), and there is a shareholders' deficit of £8 million (£4.035 million)
There is no doubt from that set of statistics that the flagship is proving to represent a considerable drain on financial resources although shareholders Aurium Avonmouth LLP have given an undertaking to bankroll the operation over the next 12 months.
Borders council taxpayers and users of the local waste disposal services may wish to contemplate - then shudder to think - what could have happened had a scaled down version of the Avonmouth "dud" been thrown up on the outskirts of Galashiels!
But unfortunately the regulatory bodies who revel in the title "guardians of the public pound" have repeatedly refused to investigate the catastrophic and disturbing affair.

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