Replacing Congleton tip depends on other recycling centres staying open, council says

Cheshire East won’t look for a new household waste site in Congleton until councillors know whether more sites in other towns will have to close.

The household waste and recycling centre (HWRC) at Congleton closed in September last year because the lease had expired and the landowner did not wish to renew it.

Cheshire East’s contract with the company which currently runs all its sites across the borough expires in April next year.

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The cabinet decided in May 2021 that, because of this, the council would hold off making a decision on replacing the Congleton HWRC until the results of the procurement were known, particularly as the costs are expected to rise.

But the matter was raised again at Monday’s (March 7) meeting of the environment and communities committee following a notice of motion from Congleton councillor Denis Murphy calling for a full investigation into the detailed costs and feasibility of an alternative replacement recycling site in the town.

Cllr Murphy (Lib Dem) told the committee Congleton needed its own recycling centre.

“More people are dumping waste and items that would have previously gone into the recycling centre into their black bins,” he said.

Cllr June Buckley (Alsager, Lib Dem) said fly-tipping had increased since the site was closed.

Congleton town councillor Robert Douglas, who addressed the committee during public speaking time, said: “Combating climate change should be a top priority, not replacing our site will do so much to our environment.”

Public speaker Cllr Suzy Firkin, also from Congleton Town Council, said: “What the residents of Congleton really need is access to a fully functioning waste and recycling service in Congleton.”

Cllr Les Gilbert (Dane Valley, Con) said it was ‘unthinkable’ Cheshire East’s third largest town should be without a facility.

He said people in his ward, which includes Holmes Chapel, had been hit by a double whammy – first the closure of the Arclid tip and then Congleton.

“I fully support the principle of what’s proposed in this motion, but not in isolation from the bigger picture,” he said. “And when it comes back to us, I would be very surprised if I can support the recommendations if they don’t include reinstatement of a facility at Congleton.”

Knutsford councillor Tony Dean (Con) said when the Congleton centre closed ‘we were repeatedly told at the time that there was going to be a second bite at the apple because of this contract procurement process’.

He said: “I don’t think Ansa can do a proper procurement process if they haven’t got the facts and figures for a new site at Congleton.”

Ralph Kemp, head of environmental services, said the officers intended reporting back to the committee once the procurement process had been undertaken with costs for running the contract from 2023.

He said if there was to be a future Congleton site, that cost could be factored in.

Sandbach councillor Laura Crane (Lab), who was the cabinet member responsible for waste when last year’s decision was taken, said: “The biggest overriding factor then, and I think the same overriding factor applies right now, is that we don’t know what this new contract is going to cost us.

“I don’t feel it’s right to push ahead assuming that we can put a site in Congleton, when the contract procurement may result in us having to close more sites. We don’t know, at present, what we can afford.”

She added: “Would it be fiscally responsible to put in additional work now to build up a case for Congleton when we may find ourselves having to close other town sites?”

The Sandbach councillor proposed that the committee wait until August when the report detailing new HWRC contract costs for the borough would be known.

The vote was narrowly carried by six votes to five, with two councillors abstaining.

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