High court ruling on lawfulness of Javelin Park incinerator contract reaches final stages

A DECISION in the high court case over the controversial Urbaser Balfour Beatty operated waste incinerator at Javelin Park on the M5 is not now expected for some weeks.

This follows the fourth and final day of the ‘preliminary issues’ stage of the case, which is being brought by environmental campaign group Community R4C against Gloucestershire County Council.

His Honour Judge Rasmussen withheld his decision at the conclusion of a hearing Wednesday, June 24, where concluding remarks were made by both sides’ barristers in a Zoom video conference.

In the case, Community R4C (CR4C) claims the contract for the incinerator was awarded unlawfully.

Gloucestershire County Council has denied this and said it ran a competitive process within the law.

The High Court will make a decision on whether or not Community R4C could have qualified to bid for the new contract in 2016.

The ‘preliminary issues’ the judge has to decide upon are technical objections to the claim, raised by GCC: whether CR4C brought their case within 30 days of discovering the council’s breach of procurement law; and whether they would have been a credible bidder had there been a re-tender back in 2015/2016.

Representing Community R4C, barrister Duncan Sinclair said that they could not possibly have known about the breach when even councillors did not.

He said: “CR4C didn’t know and they couldn’t know. The evidence is consistent and compelling that all but a small cabal within Gloucestershire County Council were in the dark.

“The council resisted disclosure of even the first (2013) contract before the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and on appeal for 4 years. It then resisted disclosure of any details of the 2016 contract through the ICO and by appealing – until it released documents on 20 December 2018.  Upon release of the details there was an outcry, including amongst many councillors, MPs and others.

“My client has offered cogent evidence that it would have formed a consortium and bid for the putative contract. The prospects of not only bidding but winning a putative contract were very significant.”

Mr Sinclair went on to say that C4RC was bringing its case primarily in the public interest.  They sought judicial recognition that GCC had breached the law, awarding, without tender, a revised contract that cost it over £140m more than the competitive result signed in 2013. 

He noted that there is an ongoing investigation by the auditor to GCC, Grant Thornton.

Cllr Nigel Moor, cabinet member responsible for waste, said: “The Javelin Park project will save taxpayers money, cut carbon emissions by 40,000 tonnes per year, and dispose of Gloucestershire’s waste that can’t be recycled cleanly and efficiently.

“The council has lodged a robust defence – it would be inappropriate to comment further pending the court’s consideration of this matter.”

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