Dear Editor, For many months colleagues and I have been requesting sight of key information concerning the ‘Middle Quinton’ eco-town proposal. Sadly these details remain as elusive as the new town’s funding.
I wonder whether the real explanation is that we are experiencing “buck passing” between the developers and Government over this deeply unpopular programme. Perhaps no-one really knows the answers, or, even worse, the truth would blow the project apart.
This continued obscurity makes a mockery of MP Iain Wright’s recent press claims that his department has done a “good communications job” on eco-towns (at a cost to the taxpayer of £3.3m and counting).
The first information gap concerns financial viability. A Government-commissioned study claims “MQ is potentially viable”. Hardly confidence-inspiring. Furthermore, a separate and independent study commissioned by the six relevant district and county councils has just concluded there will be a £373 million deficit.
Who should we believe? Given the Government’s awful record of under-budgeting and over-spending on major capital projects I personally am in little doubt as to which report has greater credibility. But why don’t either the promoters or Government release the relevant data to allow a thorough cross-check and put an end to any unjust cynicism?
The second failure to offer fact over opinion concerns the all important eco-technologies. There is liberal reference in the MQ Vision document to many immature technologies but again, each is sadly lacking in detail. I assume therefore that waste to energy is the chosen exemplar technology proposed for MQ.
The questions are simple:
What risk analysis has been undertaken on each option proposed?
How much will the technology cost? Who pays?
What annual waste tonnage is being assumed?
What is the true catchment area for waste collection? The new town alone or a much wider area across adjoining counties – the latter obviously having massive transport implications.
How many megawatts of net energy will be delivered – and what area is this intended to supply?
Sadly there exist several reports of both technical and financial disasters involving waste to energy technologies which are still in their infancy. Existing European and US examples demonstrate there is a real risk of toxic emissions. The advice of world authority Dr Paul Connett, Professor of Chemistry at St Lawrence University, New York, is compelling on these risks.
I challenge all parties involved to take these concerns seriously and to respond in depth without delay.
This whole eco-town fiasco is rapidly becoming a showcase for failed democracy involving an innocent, but increasingly wary, public. Just when will we get the detailed answers we are entitled to receive?
A copy of this letter has been sent to St Modwen.
Dr R D King