14 September 2020 by James Langley

Judge rules for Essex in Tovi Eco Park dispute

A High Court judge has ruled in favour of Essex county council in the latest judgment in the long running dispute between the local authority and UBB Waste (Essex) Ltd.

UBB operates the Tovi Eco Park facility in Basildon. Several issues have been subject to litigation from both parties involved in the dispute, such as the composition of waste, the operation and performance of the facility and compensation for alleged delays.

The MBT facility in Basildon at the centre of the long-running dispute

In an initial High Court judgement on 18 June Mr Justice Pepperall ruled overwhelmingly in favour of Essex county council, concluding ongoing performance issues with the facility were due to UBB’s ‘fundamental design error’ (see letsrecycle.com story).

Costs

Following the initial judgment, matters still to be considered included the basis on which the council could recover its legal costs from UBB and the rate of interest to be awarded on the costs and damages owed to the authority.

UBB also requested permission to appeal certain points of the judgment.

These matters were considered during a court hearing on 13 and 14 July when the judge reserved judgment to a later date. On Friday (11 September) Mr Justice Pepperall issued his decision, finding in favour of Essex county council and refusing UBB’s request for permission to appeal.

UBB may still choose to apply to the Court of Appeal for permission. The full ruling can be read here.

UBB declined to comment when contacted by letsrecycle.com.

‘Excellent outcome’

Councillor Simon Walsh, cabinet member for environment and climate change action at Essex county council, said: “We are delighted that once again the judge has made orders favourable to Essex county council in this case.

“This is an excellent outcome for the council”

Councillor Simon Walsh, Essex county council

“The judge ordered that UBB should pay the highest possible level of the council’s recoverable costs and interest on the costs and damages it owes the authority.

“This is an excellent outcome for the council and the taxpayers of Essex and further justifies our decision to commence legal proceedings.

“We would like to reassure residents that they will see no difference in how their bins are collected as a result of this latest judgment.”

Tovi Eco Park

UBB is short for Urbaser Balfour Beatty. Urbaser is a global environmental services business based in Madrid, Spain, with a UK office in Cheltenham, while Balfour Beatty is a global civil engineering and investment business headquartered in the UK. In August Essex county council revealed the operator of the Tovi Eco Park had gone into administration (see letsrecycle.com story).

UBB entered a PFI contract with Essex county council to design, build and operate a waste facility in Basildon across a 28-year period in 2012. It was to handle 417,000 tonnes a year.

The operator of the facility stopped accepting deliveries of waste to the facility on 29 June 2020, and Essex county council says no further waste has been delivered to the facility since then.

Essex county council’s contract with UBB remains in place and the facility continues to process the remaining waste already within it.

The council says it is engaging with the administrative receivers in relation to their plans for the facility and the recovery of the costs and damages owed to it.

While next steps are being considered, household waste will continue to be collected across the county and disposed of appropriately, the council says.

Administrator

The administrator for UBB Waste (Essex) is the London-based FRP Advisory Group, with Geoffrey Rowley and David Shambrook handling the process.

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