The region’s three waste management groups: arc21, the North West Region Waste Management Group (NWRWMG) and the Southern Waste Management Partnership (SWaMP) are currently undergoing a competitive dialogue process, used when the contracting authority wishes to award a particularly complex contract.
A spokesman from the Department of the Environment has told agendaNi that construction of all the facilities is scheduled to commence in the year 2012-2013 “with the initial plant becoming operational in 2013-2014.” The contracts to successful bidders were originally to be awarded by 2010 or late 2011 but the deadline has been extended, although the department didn’t clarify a new date.
Potential sites include: the Belfast Lough’s North Foreshore for arc 21’s facility; Macosquin, County Londonderry, for the NWRWMG’s facility; and Drumee, County Fermanagh, for SWaMP’s facility.
The spokesman said: “While each of the waste management groups has identified indicative locations for the facilities through a rigorous site selection process, it will be the successful bidder in each case who ultimately determines the location of facilities, which will of course be further subject to the outcome of planning and permitting applications.”
A number of bidders have pulled out of the process since 2009, prompting concern that the waste facilities would not be built.
The DoE has said that this was to be expected, adding “the fact that two of the projects are now in dialogue with a single bidder does not pre-empt their capacity to deliver value-for-money outcomes.”
The department had spent £7.7 million on project development by March 2011.
In Budget 2008, a Strategic Waste Infrastructure Fund (SWIF), which was to be given £200 million for capital expenditure on the three waste management projects, was announced. However, the department’s 2011-2015 overall capital budget is £23.6 million; £2.3 million for the SWIF and £9.3 million for the Rethink Waste campaign, to fund councils for initiatives that will help to boost waste recycling and reuse. The SWIF will be allocated £2.3 million as follows: £0.9 million in 2011-2012; £0.7 million in 2012-2013; £0.5 million in 2013-2014; and £0.2 million in 2014- 2015.
Then Environment Minister Edwin Poots explained this reasoning, saying: “Previously, £200 million was set aside for the capital waste infrastructure fund. It would be better if that funding were made available on a recurrent basis, because most of [the waste management groups] are involved in PPPs.”
He estimated that recurrent funding would not be needed until 2013-2014, and conceded that “the £200 million was not the right model for delivering the waste infrastructure programme.”
When asked to explain the delay in delivering the three waste management facilities, the spokesman said that under competitive dialogue, all matters relating to the operation of the contract are required to be fully addressed in advance of preferred bidder selection, and there is no opportunity to re-open negotiation on any point after selection.
There are “uniquely complex elements and risks associated with major waste infrastructure contracts such as guaranteed minimum tonnages, rates of waste growth and waste composition,” he added.
The waste management groups have therefore extended competitive dialogue “beyond their originally forecast timescales in order to ensure that they arrive at the most economically advantageous solution for their constituent councils.”