Veolia will be feeling confident this weekend. They came and met us – more of us than they probably expected – and brought their own independent facilitator to keep the peace. I hope they paid him well, as the impression certainly was that he felt (as we do) that the meeting was too little, and much too late; and that he hadn’t been warned about the strength of opposition the company faces. Strangely, their communications officer Victoria Cooper wasn’t introduced and had nothing to say at all.
The company faced a large number of questions, some of which they had notice of as they had been presented a month ago, some others could have been reasonably anticipated.
But still – despite this advance warning – we heard no comprehensive or complete answers; ‘we’ll work that out at the permit stage‘ suggests a lack of planning that is barely credible – unless they simply don’t want to tell us the truth. Similarly, regional director Keith McGurk’s claim that he didn’t have a crystal ball, so couldn’t anticipate any future ambitions the company may have for the site, was simply naive. We don’t believe this.
And don’t be fooled by the impression they want to give of tidy, clean, sweet-smelling packaging – imagine for example the cardboard your Amazon order comes in. The same waste category code could include waste from student residences (we understand Veolia have the contract for this in Lincoln) or fast food outlet waste packaging and containers – and that is not tidy, not clean, and certainly not sweet-smelling.
Veolia has demonstrated all the worst aspects of a multinational corporation; it is clear that for them profit is everything and the views of the local community count for nothing. Veolia talk of being a good neighbour but when 100% of their neighbours ask them not to ruin the community and to go elsewhere then the request falls on deaf ears. Veolia have shown nothing but contempt and disrespect for our community; they may hope they have done “community engagement” sufficiently to satisfy the Planning Inspector. We disagree.
For a corporation that employs professional communicators, Veolia’s activities seemed deliberately designed to alienate the local community. They did a tiny amount of leafleting; they knocked on a few doors; they hosted an ‘Open Day’ (that was a joke) – and, on the very evening before the deadline for residents objections to be submitted, they finally held a meeting to halfheartedly answer community questions that had been in their possession for a month. All to avoid scrutiny from residents asking detailed questions about their ill-conceived plans for a Refuse Derived Fuel production plant. They say there are “misunderstandings” about what they propose to do. We ask for details of the specific waste codes they will process at the site and they reply “The relevant waste codes will be presented in a permit application to the Environment Agency in due course“. So Veolia have these waste codes, they are just not prepared to tell residents. You may wonder why. This lack of openness and transparency from Veolia has been a feature of their planning application.
It’s a pity that not one of us will have left the meeting thinking that any word we said will make any difference – in one ear and out the other, is the phrase that suits.
SO WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
The deadline for letters of objection is now past. But we fight on, angry and determined, to the last ounce of our reserve. There’s work to be done getting expert opinion and witnesses for the public inquiry next year; there’s work to be done with the Environment Agency – even with planning permission, Veolia cannot operate on site without EA permits; and, not least, there’s work to be done making sure we can argue our case at the inquiry on an equal and level basis to how Veolia will be making its case.
We need money to defend our community. Experts and barristers don’t come cheap – and it would be a false economy to try to find the cheapest. Be certain that Veolia will bring the best they can find, and we need to be able to match strength with strength.
As a community, so many people have already donated and we are enormously grateful to each of you, very many thanks indeed. But if you haven’t yet donated, or feel after the meeting that you would like to give a little more, then we need your contributions now; we are still some way short of our target, and we want to choose the best people to fight for us, not the cheapest.
HERE’S THE PLAN
Over the weekend of 14 / 15 October we plan to distribute an envelope stamped STOP VEOLIA through every door in Long Leys and West End; then the following weekend we’ll call again to collect the envelopes, and hope you may have been generous enough to pop a cheque (payable to Long Leys Residents Association) inside.
We hope those of you who have already given, some very generously, won’t be offended by us asking again. We cannot practically pass by your homes and deliver only to those who haven’t yet donated, but this effort will not be a ‘pressure selling’ exercise – just say ‘no thanks’, or give us back an empty envelope if you feel you’ve done your share. And if you prefer, you can give anonymously – just write ‘ANONYMOUS’ on the envelope.
OTHER WAYS YOU CAN HELP
Can you help us with the distribution discussed above? We have 1,000 homes to visit, first simply to deliver the fundraising envelope, and then to knock on doors the following weekend to collect the envelopes back again. If you can help, contact me CHRIS TAYLOR on email@example.com.
Or can you organise an event, perhaps a coffee morning in your street or similar? Or a cake stall? A sponsored activity? Anything to help the cause, no matter how much or how little, we need your help.
We cannot honestly hire the help we need unless we know we can pay them – so we need the money now. Please continue to help us with your support…