Council urged to come clean on incinerator plans

COUNCIL bosses have been asked to reveal all about controversial incinerator plans.

Councillors wanted to raise the issue at a full council meeting today, but were told the motion had been rejected.

Town hall officials said it would have "the effect of council exercising a cabinet function" and therefore ruled it out of order.

Today Coun Jane Branley, leader of the opposition on South Tyneside Council, who put forward the motion, said she simply wanted clarification of information which is in the public interest.

She said: "This information is in the public interest. It could have serious consequences for this borough.

"I'm not asking the council to make a decision. I simply want to know, on behalf of the public, whether any sites have been considered in the borough for a waste treatment plant, and whether any decision has been made.

"This must be put on record in the council chamber."

South Tyneside Council are working with Sunderland and Gateshead local authorities to preparing a joint waste strategy.

One of several options under discussion is an incinerator to burn household waste.

Last night dozens of protestors gathered outside the council chamber in Sunderland, as Labour members met in private to discuss their plans.

Senior Labour members said the debate had to take place in private to keep "commercially sensitive" information from private contractors and so be able to get the best deal for council tax payers.

But campaigners from Friends of the Earth, Ban Waste, Sunderland Civic Society and Residents Against Toxic Site (Rats) were out in protest at the decision to bar them from the meeting.

They were also calling on the council to rule out building an incinerator to generate electricity.

Leader of South Tyneside Council, Coun Paul Waggott, has already signalled his opposition about building an incinerator in the borough.

Speaking after last night's meeting, Sunderland Council leader Coun Bob Symonds said no decision has been made on which waste treatment process would be chosen, or where it would be built.

Coun David Potts, who is also the Local Government Association national portfolio holder for waste and recycling, said: "It is sad that such a monumental decision should be shrouded in secrecy.

"This is a 1.6bn scheme which will effect the way that the waste of hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses is dealt with.

"We simply cannot lose any more of our already dwindling greenbelt."

Fiona Brown, project director of the South Tyneside Waste Management Partnership, said: "No decisions on how we treat our waste in future have been taken."

A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: "The Mayor decided that the motion would have had the effect of the council exercising a cabinet function, and therefore ruled it out of order."