LEADING councillors who tied Flintshire into a deal that will see an incinerator built were not aware of the £20 million cost of pulling out, it has been claimed.
And only 200 people in the county were asked their views on a facility to tackle up to 180,000 tonnes of residual waste per year from Flintshire, Denbighshire, Anglesey, Gwynedd and Conwy.
The revelations came as Connah’s Quay town councillors gave project bosses a grilling over an incinerator planned for Deeside Industrial Park.
Managers of the North Wales Residual Waste Treatment Project (NWRWTP) faced a heated round of questions at the town council meeting on Wednesday.
Cllr Bernie Attridge asked: “Who signed the agreement? And the people who signed the agreement,were they aware of what they were signing for?”
Flintshire Council chief executive Colin Everett stepped in to explain the former administration in March 2010 signed up to the inter-authority partnership without knowing the total penalty of opting out.
He said they did not understand the “actual cost we could incur if we pulled out”.
He added: “But they knew they were signing into a legally binding agreement and we didn’t do that without knowing there will be consequences, but the costs would not have been discussed because we didn’t know it would come to this.
He said if the authority backed out now, Flintshire Council would face a £20 million bill, made up of the repayment of project support to Welsh Government, compensation to the bidders and four councils in the agreement and the costs of the council’s own procurement process.
Longer term liabilities include the council not being able to avoid £6 million per year landfill tax and the loss of a 25 per cent subsidy from Welsh Government for the running costs over 25 years.
Project director of NWRWTP, Stephen Penny, said 1,000 people across all five partner authorities had been surveyed, a fifth of those were in Flintshire, and 80 per cent were for a facility.
Cllr Pam Attridge said: “I was one of many that went out with a petition.
“I want my children to be able to live in a clean society. It’s everything in Connah’s Quay – we seem to be the dumping ground.”
Mr Penny explained air quality standard tests had been done.
“There would still be significant headroom before there would be any effect on health,” he assured councillors.
Cllr Gill Faulkner said: “We had this with the power station and we had red dust in our bird baths, everywhere. We are in fear that it will happen again.”
And Cllr Steven Tattam asked: “Will you write to every resident in Connah’s Quay and Shotton asking them their views?
Mr Penny replied: “There will be extensive consultation. We are here today to talk about local engagement.”
He spoke of community benefits the plant offered and said a number of businesses at the Northern Gateway and Deeside Enterprise Zone had expressed interest in buying lower cost energy generated by the facility.
Mr Everett said: “All five councils will benefit from electricity and heat and one of Flintshire’s jobs is to press for the best local deal we can get for Flintshire.
“That’s for businesses, public buildings and residents.”
Mr Attridge asked what would happen if the planning committee turned the proposal down.
Mr Everett explained the applicant would have the right of appeal and it could go to a public inquiry heard by a planning inspector from the Welsh Government.