Council denies failing to carry out a ‘credible consultation’ on waste.
by Beth McLoughlin
The spectre of incineration has been raised again after campaigners slammed the public consultation process on waste issues.
They blasted Surrey County Council for its failure to “undertake a credible consultation”' on its Waste Development Framework
These are plans for future treatment and final disposal of waste, and include issues such as recycling landfill and waste reduction.
Capel Action Group (CAG) said it was a mistake to consult online, because many people do not have web access.
But the county council pointed out that, as well as the Internet there were also hard copies of the relevant papers in libraries and the district council offices. A total of 2,000 were sent to individuals and organisations.
A consultancy, Dialogue by Design, undertook the consultation, which ended on February 28.
According to Surrey County Council, there were 244 online responses and about 1,400 paper responses.
The CAG statement went on: "What is also clear is that the internet is not a popular channel for completing complex, detailed consultation returns.
"Surrey County Council ought to have been aware of this and should have provided and effectively publicised a variety of means for citizens to make their submissions."
But a county council spokesman said: "To have conducted the consultation uniquely on paper, as CAG seems to propose would have been both significantly more expensive and wasteful in terms of the amount of paper the exercise would have generated."
She also hit back at claims the county council did not want to reach the public in general and pointed at workshops on waste which were held throughout last year to raise awareness.
The campaigners herald the public’s continued opposition to incineration as reflected in the Surrey Local Government ' Association consultation.
They point to support from Mole Valley District Council, which has recently objected to the attempt by Surrey Waste Management to mothball part of the Capel landfill site for future waste use, including incineration.
They said: "Surrey County Council continues to preach incineration despite the clear impact that actions on minimisation, reuse and recycling are having."
They said in 2003-04 that national municipal waste levels fell by one per cent, recycling and composting levels were up by 3.4 per cent to 19 per cent and waste sent to landfill fell by 5.5 per cent.
The county council puts the figure closer to a 2.6 per cent increase in the waste generated.
The spokesman said the county council is open to all ways of dealing with waste that cannot be avoid ed, recycled, composed or reclaimed in other ways.
CAG claims that the council is creating alarm by assessing the increase so high and continuing to plan on this basis.
The campaigners conclude: "Surrey County Council is failing in its duty to Surrey citizens to engage effectively with them in developing its new Waste Development Framework
There is still time to get the process of consultation back on track. Surrey County Council will be pursuing a dangerous path if it fails to do so."