Secret meeting over incinerator plans

PROTESTERS were gathering today as councillors discussed controversial incinerator plans.

A behind-closed-doors meeting examining waste management strategies was being held at Sunderland Civic Centre.

Sunderland, Gateshead and South Tyneside local authorities are preparing a joint waste strategy.

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

But South Tyneside Council leader Paul Waggott has personally vowed to fight any move to locate an incinerator in our borough.

Last week he told the Gazette: "I am not in favour of an incinerator, even if it ends up being the technology that seems to offer the best value for money on paper."

Last month, police were called to a Sunderland council meeting after protesters in the packed public gallery refused to leave when the ruling Labour group voted the discussion should be held behind closed doors.

The Labour group says the debate should be held in private because of commercially sensitive information.

But at last month's meeting, Tory and Independent councillors challenged a motion to ban the public and press, saying people should be allowed to hear all of the facts.

The Energy From Waste system is one of several options being considered by the three councils to try and reduce the amount of rubbish sent to landfill sites.

If the incinerator plans did go ahead, the cost could by more than 1.6bn over the next 28 years, with Sunderland paying more than 772m.

The Energy From Waste process has been criticised by environmentalists because it produces more harmful emissions than gas-fuelled power stations.

Sunderland Council leader Bob Symonds said at last month's meeting that no decision had yet been made of whether the project would go ahead and where it would be built if it did.

Today's private meeting was due to be held before the full council meeting.