On Monday 21st September 1998 NPT CBC held a meeting of their Technical and Property Services Committee at their Port Talbot Council Chamber . All the elected members were invited to this meeting but the public were excluded.. The meeting received a presentation by HLC on Waste management 25 year Strategy.
Two days later a brown paper parcel was delivered to Swansea Friends of the Earth's office . It contained a copy of the presentation made to the Councillors on the previous Monday. This presentation enclosed in a very neat plastic folder, was made up of a 91 page document of the company's accounts accounts for 1997 in Portuguese and English and over 21 glossy A4 leaflets entirely in Portuguese. There was also a document containing nearly 40 pages of printouts of powerpoint type slides, which were presumably the visual presentation to councillors specifically about the proposed “Materials Recovery and Energy Centre.”
The following weekend after consulting the activists. Swansea FoE put out a press release disclosing the information. Early Monday morning the press were phoning for more information. Soon afterwards the Council's Director of Technical Services, Denys Morgan was ringing us delicately enquiring how much we knew and where we had our information from, the press having contacted him . He invited us to meet with him. The following day we had the front page of the local South Wales Evening Post and there was an outcry. Also that day Roy Jones and Alan Watson met with Denys Morgan to put forward alternative views and to explain how the council should be looking for a better deal for the ratepayers. However the council failed to listen to our views, which is somewhat unfortunate given the situation they find themselves in in 2008 (see later in the story)
We warned them that too many local authorities approach these kinds of contracts without taking appropriate external advice and consequently end up with very poor value.
Later that week we were recording an item for HTV.
The council held a public meeting on the 6th October at Crymlyn Burrows Community Centre. The hall was packed out but the meeting was a flop. Questions were unanswered and the public were very dissatisfied. Letters followed from the Baglan Bay Pressure Group and the East Side Action Committee and ourselves. We again met with Denys Morgan to discus further and to pursue the need for a proper public meeting. On the 2nd December there was an exhibition at the Crymlyn Burrows Community Centre followed by an explanation by company representatives of HLC. This turned into a public meeting which ended in chaos. Alan Watson was refused the opportunity to put alternative views forward. People just walked out as a result, leaving the company talking to an empty room. On the 16th December a further public meeting took place under the chairmanship of a different councillor. Company representatives were there again together with officers from the Neath Port Talbot Council and the Environment Agency. Alan Watson was allowed to make a presentation. As the meeting was competently run it ran much more smoothly and the public although disagreeing with the council's stance listened to the presentations.
On the 10th March 1999 the Neath Port Talbot Council held an “Environment and Consumer Services Committee ( Special Meeting)” where they agreed the go-ahead for the Incinerator and associated plant given the propaganda name of MREC( Materials Recovery and Energy Centre)
Swansea Friends of the Earth distributed a leaflet to all councillors . The leader of the council Noel Crowley summed up at the end of the meeting and pulled out a copy of the leaflet and tore it up furiously and threw it across the chamber referring to Friends of the Earth as scaremongers. It is a pity he didn't have the foresight realise that the council would be suing their own advisers nearly a decade later when the plant is not living up to expectations.
A request to the Secretary of State for Wales to call in the application was refused.
Continued in Crymlyn Burrows Incinerator Part 2
Swansea Friends of the Earth