Cheers of excitement erupted after a council decided not to pour tens of thousands of pounds into assessing the suitability of a much-contested site for its shared waste hub.
The council chamber at West Suffolk House, in Bury St Edmunds, was teaming with members of the public last night.
Most were there to hear the outcome of a recommendation to approve £180,000 - £82,000 from St Edmundsbury and £98,000 from Forest Heath - to fund a feasibility study into the proposal to locate the West Suffolk Operational Hub (WSOH) at the town’s Hollow Road Farm.
Campaigner Sarah Bartram told the council that established waste industry best practice did not co-locate household waste recycling centres and waste transfer stations due to the unacceptable pressure on road infrastructure and the safety risks of mixing members of the public with HGVs.
She proposed upgrading the Rougham Hill waste recycling centre to a modern split level design and co-locating the waste transfer station and depot facilities on a remote site immediately adjacent to the A14.
Cllr Paul Hopfensperger said the entire project was ‘totally amateurish’, ‘made no sense’ and had ‘ignored entirely’ the views of the residents of the Fornhams, Great Barton and the Howard and Mildenhall Road estates.
He said: “There are alternative sites which I believe have not been fully explored - Saxham, Rougham hill with the additional DEFRA land which has become available, but surely the best location would be on the new Suffolk Business Park where a new link road is being built, on the Rookery crossroads junction which exits directly onto the A14.”
Cllr David Nettleton said it would be a ‘mistake’ to approve the recommendation, while Cllr Sarah Broughton said the council should ‘stop wasting taxpayers’ money’ and investigate other sites before allocating more money to Hollow Road Farm.
The recommendation was defeated - 14 councillors voted in favour of it and 17 voted against, with 10 abstentions.
Speaking after the meeting, Mrs Bartram said: “Obviously this is the result we wanted today but this isn’t the end. I’m hoping they will genuinely go back and look at the other sites, with fresh eyes.”
Cllr Philip Reeve, chairman of Great Barton Parish Council, said: “I now hope the portfolio leader will lead the council to promote a consultation across St Edmundsbury to allow the public and stakeholders to promote new sites.
“This could be for a single service site or potentially as an operational hub, which will allow all permutations to be assessed alongside their financial viability. All contributions to the consultation must be publicly available, including financial appraisals.”
In response to the council’s decision, Cllr Peter Stevens, cabinet portfolio holder for operations, said: “While there is general agreement that a shared hub is a good concept, both because it would save taxpayers’ money and improve the way we deal with our waste, identifying the best site is clearly always going to be an issue.
“St Edmundsbury’s cabinet recently agreed further consultation is necessary and we will now work on engaging our communities across West Suffolk in this next stage. Meanwhile, we will also look at what other steps need to be taken as a result of last night’s council decision not to fund further studies at this point.”