Countdown to opening of Leeds’ energy plant

The Cross Green Incinerator, Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme
The Cross Green Incinerator, Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme
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The countdown has begun to the opening of a multi-million pound incinerator and recycling plant which - it is hoped - will revolutionise the way Leeds deals with its waste and ultimately save taxpayers millions in landfill levies for the next 40 years.

Leeds City Council has just signed off a £30m “capital contribution” towards the overall cost of completion of the facility, which is on track to open next summer.

The authority has also completed a special agreement called a “non reverting asset” which means operators and builders Veolia will keep running the facility after the initial 25 year contract expires.

This formalises an earlier agreement to extend the original lease by 15 years.

The council says the enhanced contract will mean huge savings on monthly service charges, equating to almost £4m a year in total.

Also, by no longer sending waste to landfill, the city saves around £3m a year by savings on its landfill tax bill. So in total, the council is aiming to save taxpayers almost £7m a year on service charges and landfill tax.

The building, with the tallest arch in Europe, is already dominating the Leeds skyline in the east of the city.

The plant will burn up to 214,000 tonnes of Leeds’s annual bin waste.

It is funded by a 25-year Private Finance Initiative (PFI) project with Veolia which will cost the council a total of about £460m. It is claimed it will save £200 million over the 25 years, with the further savings on top.

After processing at Cross Green, recyclable materials - up to 20 percent of the total that comes in - will be harvested, and the rest will be burnt.

It is also hoped that enough energy will be produced to generate electricity to power over 22,000 homes.

A report just approved by senior council officials confirms that “given the significance of the saving associated with both options” it is considered right to “formalise both the Non-Reverting Asset and the £30m Capital Contribution”.

Councillor Mark Dobson, the council’s executive member for the environment and community safety, said earlier that “extending the lease and making a capital contribution also allows us to save significant amounts of council taxpayers’ cash - around £3.7m a year - over the length of the contract”.

** While Leeds City Council has been keen to promote its flagship incinerator, the project has been a controversial one since it was first mooted, not least among residents in and around Cross Green.

Simon Bowens, from Friends of the Earth, previously told the YEP of his fears that for the Leeds plant to remain viable over the lengthy contract period, waste materials may end up being brought in from outside the city. He added that while the plant might create some energy, “it won’t balance itself out, because the more virgin material you are trying to extract, the more intensive it is to do that”. “There are smarter ways of dealing with our waste,” he said.