Waste disposal - about to hit fan

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Plans for waste disposal across the North are closer than ever to collapse. Prospects for Derry and the north west are dire.

The reason there hasn’t been a word about this from any of the mainstream parties is that it’s hard to speak up when you head is buried in the sand. Or rather, in the landfill.

A year ago, the SBS consortium (Shanks, Brickkiln, Sisks) was confirmed as preferred bidder (in fact, it was the only bidder) for a £560 million contract to handle waste treatment and disposal for Derry, Ballymoney, Coleraine, Limavady, Magherafelt, Moyle and Strabane council areas - the North West Region Waste Management Group. This was to be one of the biggest procurement exercises in the history of the Northern state.

At the heart of the project was a plan for an incinerator/gasification plant at Maydown. Over the past 12 months, this column has repeatedly warned that the plan was ill-advised and wouldn’t work. These warnings will be publicly vindicated in a matter of weeks.

It will be interesting, then, to hear the response of those who have allowed the situation to fester and grow by dismissing or ignoring the warnings.

The SBS consortium is in trouble. One of the three components seems on the brink of pulling out. When/if that happens, the problems will escalate beyond difficult, towards catastrophe. The consortium awarded the contract will no longer exist. Neither, then, will the contract exist. And there is no alternative in the offing.

The question will arise as to how difficulties on this scale can have developed without anybody in authority noticing. Or alternatively, and worse, how the difficulties can have been recognised but ignored.

At least one political head is set to roll.

The fact that there isn’t a word about any of it in formal political circles will make the hullaballoo when it erupts all the more dramatic. It will erupt any day now.