Blaenau Gwent considers private firm for ‘in-house’ wood plant

Blaenau Gwent county borough council has published three prior information notices (PINs) as it considers its next steps for its “in-house” 30,000 tonne per year capacity wood recycling plant.

The proposed site is used by the council’s in-house waste firm Silent Valley Waste Services Limited

One of the PINs examines the option of having the plant run by the private sector instead.

The option has been put forward two months after Audit Wales found “significant, long-standing deficiencies in governance” in how the council dealt with its in-house firm, Silent Valley Waste Services Limited.

The others PINs look for potential construction firms and machinery suppliers.

Blaenau Gwent says that, through the PINs, it “wishes to seek information and advice from interested parties who may wish to participate in the forthcoming procurement process”.

The authority warned however that the PINS do “not formally signify the beginning of a procurement”.

Blaenau Gwent county borough council did not respond when asked for comment by letsrecycle.com.

Plant

The council first unveiled plans to build an “in-house” facility in October 2020,which it said would “reduce the environmental impacts” of wood waste management (see letsrecycle.com story).

Under the plans, a partnership has been proposed that will comprise a group of unnamed local authorities in Wales who will provide waste wood “feedstock” to the facility from their respective civic amenity sites.

At the time, the council said the in-house plant would deliver “significant savings for local authorities for example through reduced haulage mileage and costs” and would be commissioned in 2024.

Since then, the council has remained tight-lipped on the proposals as it considers a business case for the plant.

Operation

However, one PIN suggests it is considering turning to the private sector to operate the plant.

Published yesterday (23 March), the PIN covers the “operation and maintenance (O&M)” of the proposed facility.

The council says an in-house site for its waste wood would help Wales hit its recycling targets

It said the authority “is keen to explore the commercial viability of outsourcing the O&M of the facility over a term of up to 10 years, as opposed to the option of delivering the operations in-house as a public sector partnership.”

This would include the day-to-day processing of waste wood feedstock, manning the picking station, and operation of a process-line configuration of plant and machinery.

Auditor

The PIN for a possible private contractor comes after the Welsh Auditor published a damning report into the relationship between the council and Silent Valley Waste Services in January.

This found a number of “significant concerns regarding the adequacy of the council’s arrangements.”

This included the failure to establish proper governance and oversight arrangements in respect of Silent Valley from 2012 onwards to ensure accountability for the use of public resources.

The council acknowledged the report and commissioned a review “to seek assurance that its governance and oversight arrangements in respect of other companies in which it has an interest are adequate and effective.”

Construction

The PIN for the construction of the plant said the partnership and its advisors plan to procure the civil engineering and building works incorporating an 80mx20m steel framed processing hall, “compliant with all fire and operating permit regulations for waste wood reprocessing plants”.

The facility will also include external storage bays, a power supply, and a sustainable drainage solution.

A separate PIN issued was for the supply and installation of plant and equipment at the site.

This explained that the plant and equipment will be “powered by electricity where possible, to reduce CO2 emissions” and will be procured under a turnkey solution. The equipment will be installed following completion of the construction works.

The estimated value of this tender is estimated at £2 million.

Objectives

The council explained that the overall objectives of the project “are to create a modern and environmentally sustainable wood reprocessing facility that will contribute towards the net zero carbon agenda.”

The facility will be equipped with specialist process plant designed to produce specification woodchip products.

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