Surrey Eco Park dispute to be heard by arbitrator

A High Court judge has ruled that the dispute between Surrey county council and Suez recycling and recovery UK over the delayed ‘Eco Park’ will not be heard through the courts, and instead through arbitration.

This will mean Suez was successful in disputing the courts jurisdiction, and the case will now be heard through an independent arbitrator who will be appointed by the parties to make a decision, which is usually confidential and binding.

Aerial view of the Eco Park, pictured in July 2018

The ruling was handed down on 16 July by Alexander Nissen QC, sitting as a judge of the High Court, after a remote hearing on 24 June.

‘Procedural matter’

A spokesperson for Surrey county council said: “The verdict is just a procedural matter to determine if the full case is heard through arbitration or litigation. As such it pre-empts the actual case so we have nothing to add to the judgment at the moment.”

From Suez, a spokesperson said: “Our position remains that we do not intend to discuss details of the complex matters which are being addressed between the parties through this process in the public domain.

“We would however like to reiterate our commitment to continuing to provide a sustainable treatment solution for all of Surrey’s household waste and to the continued delivery of an effective, high standard service through the network of integrated waste management facilities across Surrey.”

We would like to reiterate our commitment to continuing to provide a sustainable treatment solution for all of Surrey’s household waste”

Suez spokesperson

Proceedings

The ruling comes on the back of an announcement by Surrey county council on 16 March that it had launched legal action against Suez over delays to the Surrey Eco Park, in Shepperton after “exhausting all other options available”.

Suez responded by saying it was surprised by Surrey’s decision to go public, saying it remains “committed to providing a safe, sustainable treatment solution for all of Surrey’s household waste” (see letsrecycle.com story).

The decision document explained that in its proceedings Surrey  had claimed declaratory relief against Suez as part of a waste disposal project agreement entered into between the parties.

The Eco Park pictured from the nearby M3 motorway last year, when thought to be undergoing trials

This includes the passing of the longstop date; the failure by Suez to meet the requirements for an acceptance certificate; and that, in consequence, Surrey has an entitlement to issue a notice of termination.

The decision document added that Suez then stated its intention to dispute the Court’s jurisdiction, which was the focus of the latest case.

Ruling

The judge examined the complex history of the contract between, which has taken many forms since it was signed in 1999.

In his conclusion, the judge said: “Arbitration would have been the appropriate forum to resolve disputes of a technical nature, had they arisen, regarding the construction of the mass burn [energy from waste] facilities built pursuant to the [waste disposal project agreement].

“I see no reason why these advantages should suddenly cease to apply in the case of a dispute about the construction of the gasification and AD facilities at the EcoPark.”

Eco Park

The Eco Park is set to be a collection of facilities including an anaerobic digestion (AD) facility and a gasifier. Building work on the Park began in 2015, but the facilities are still not fully operational.

Suez is developing the Eco Park to manage waste from Surrey households as part of its 25-year contract with the local authority, which was originally signed in 1999 and expires in 2024.

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