Wednesday 24 October 2018
Last December the States' Trading Supervisory Board and the Committee for theEnvironment & Infrastructure brought a joint policy letter to the States, setting out proposals for the future management of inert waste. That is not the general everyday waste households and business throw away; more the materials typically produced by the local building industry, through construction and demolition activity.
It was a joint report as both the Committee and the Board have a role with regard to waste management. The policy element is within the Committee's mandate, so they were responsible for presenting the strategy proposals.
The STSB on the other hand has a statutory responsibility, as the island's Waste Disposal Authority, to identify appropriate sites for waste management. It is that latter aspect that was the main focus of the debate.
The policy letter outlined proposals for future inert waste disposal, once the current Longue Hougue site is full. The proposals that were set out followed a review of options, carried out by a working party involving various States Committees with a role or interest in this area.
They began with a list of around 50 potential solutions and possible sites. Those ranged from continuing coastal land reclamation to land-raising in low lying areas, and from infilling former quarries to facilitating a runway extension.
All those options were assessed against various criteria - capacity, practicality, value for money, potential future uses, and environmental factors. That was done in consultation with key stakeholders, including the local construction industry, relevant States Committees, and local environmental and conservation groups. They helped in drawing up the original long list, deciding on the assessment criteria, and the subsequent scoring of options.
That process is important, as the Waste Disposal Authority is required by law to demonstrate that any site it recommends for recovery or disposal represents the Best Practical Environmental Options. That starts with a long list of potential solutions, which are narrowed down by way of robust appraisal process to identify, all things considered, which perform best.
That initial evaluation produced a shortlist. The policy letter identified which of these the STSB and the Committee recommended as the preferred way forward. That was an extension to the current land reclamation site at Longue Hougue, and it was proposed to proceed with design and approval stage, beginning with a more detailed Environmental Impact Assessment, or EIA.
Following a successful amendment, brought by Deputies Yerby and Merrett, we were directed to choose a second option from the shortlist, to undergo further detailed evaluation alongside an extension to Longue Hougue. The cost for the additional EIA was estimated at around £200,000, and Policy & Resources Committee was given delegated authority to approve that funding.
So the project team subsequently revisited the other options that were shortlisted in that original high level evaluation.
One of these was Les Vardes Quarry. That was always considered only as a potential medium term option, because for the foreseeable future it remains a working quarry. It is also currently safeguarded, longer term, for water storage.
For those two reasons, it is simply not a practical option in the timescale within which we will require a new inert waste site, as the current land reclamation site estimated to be full in around three years' time.
The remaining options included three, much smaller former quarries, plus a new coastal land reclamation site to the north of Mont Cuet.
STSB wrote to the owners of the three quarries, two of whom gave permission for further investigation. The third declined, which removed that option.
A new land reclamation site at Mont Cuet is viable. In terms of capacity, it would be considerably smaller than an extension at Longue Hougue, and would require much greater engineering because of its deeper water and more exposed location. It would therefore be a much more costly alternative, and as they are very similar in nature, an EIA is unlikely to identify any reasons for Mont Cuet to be a better location than Longue Hougue.
The STSB and the Committee for the Environment & Infrastructure therefore did not see any value in carrying out concurrent EIAs on two coastal land reclamation sites.
So from the original short list that left just two former quarries - L'Epine and Guillotin. These would only represent a short term solution, but are viable within the available timeframe. They would provide capacity for a few years, during which time other options might become available. That said, the most likely follow-on would still be an extension to Longue Hougue, on the basis that out of all the available sites it performed best in the original evaluation.
Nevertheless, in following the direction of the States, the STSB and the Committee for the Environment & Infrastructure did apply for funding to carry out a detailed EIA on the two former quarries.
As Members are already aware, the Policy & Resources Committee, in exercising its delegated authority, declined that request. Given the drawbacks of the short term option, and the likelihood it would simply delay, rather than replace an extension to Longue Hougue, they did not consider further, expensive investigation represented good value.
It is the view of the STSB, the Committee for the Environment & Infrastructure and the Policy & Resources Committee, that we have done as much as we can to fulfil the direction of the States. A detailed EIA on the Longue Hougue South extension is a costly but necessary undertaking. To spend an additional £200,000 progressing a similar study on another site or sites, knowing that is unlikely to provide a better solution, is not good use of taxpayers' money.
For that reason, we are progressing the analysis and design stage, including a detailed EIA, on Longue Hougue South, and only Longue Hougue South. That work is expected to take around two years to complete, at a cost of up to £1.1 million, as set out in the December policy.
After that, it is our intention to return to the States, for the Assembly to consider the outcome of this work, and the merits or otherwise of the proposals, before giving approval.
I would just like to address two related matters that have been raised recently in respect of this project. The first relates to cost.
The inert waste programme was identified in the Policy and Resource Plan as a 'pipeline' project, with an anticipated cost of £40m. The final costs will not be known until a solution is chosen, detailed design is carried out, and a full tender process completed. However in carrying out the initial options evaluation, some high level financial assessment was required to help decide which warrant further investigation.
That is as detailed as it can be at the early stage of a project. Clearly it is impractical to progress detailed design and tendered costs for every option, not least because of the time and expense involved. As the programme proceeds, and the various assumptions are tested and revised, cost estimates will continually be refined.
In the December policy letter the cost of an extension to Longue Hougue was estimated at around £30 million. It was not a budget, it was an estimate based on similar local projects carried out previously, and adjusted for inflation with some additional contingency applied.
Since then, more detailed evaluation has been carried out. That has included some market testing for the rock armour that is required for the outer walls of a reclamation site, which is a key element of cost.
As a result of that further work, we now estimate the cost of extending the current site to be around £45 million. That is still a provisional estimate, not a detailed budget. It is the anticipated cost prior to detailed design being carried out, and before we have explored engineering solutions to potentially bring down the cost. The figures will continue to be refined as the project progresses, and eventually a detailed budget will be presented to the States before approval for any development.
Even with the revised estimate, an extension to Longue Hougue is still considered to be the strongest available option.
The second point to address relates to a suggestion from Deputies Inder and Paint, who have proposed reclaiming land at St Peter Port Harbour.
We require a long term solution for the recovery or disposal of inert waste, so that we can continue managing this material on-island. The current programme is looking at a 20 year period, and may involve more than one site over that time. Clearly short-term options are not a complete solution - as indeed was the case with the smaller quarries.
An area to the east of the QE2 Marina was in fact one of the options included during the first assessment phase. Based on various criteria, it was felt to be inferior to the preferred option of extending the Longue Hougue site.
However that evaluation was, rightly, based on its suitability solely as an inert waste site. That is not to say that a development at the harbour has no merit. It may actually be of considerable, lasting value, both in terms of harbour operations and in the general enhancement of the seafront area. But in all likelihood, given this is a particularly sensitive location, on many levels, there will be a desire to deliver any such scheme as quickly as possible.
That urgency runs counter to the requirement for a long-term solution for inert waste. Any such development at St Peter Port Harbour should therefore be considered on its own merits, and in a wider context, rather than simply as an inert waste site. That does not in any way preclude the potential use of inert waste if we did decide to reclaim land in that location.
It is therefore more appropriate for the Seafront Enhancement Area Group to take that particular idea forward, and Deputies Inder and Paint were recently invited to present their proposals to that group.