Cheshire East Council has refused to hand over details of alternative sites for a tip in Congleton as the town’s only waste centre faces closure, leading critics to ask whether a recent consultation was “a sham”.
Many residents have expressed concern that the town will be left without a tip after a council report set out four options for the future of waste and recycling centres in the borough.
In all four scenarios, keeping Congleton’s Barn Road site open is not an option, and a planning application to build a Costa in its place has since been submitted.
While £4m has been set aside by the borough for a replacement in the town, it is unclear how far the authority has got in finding a suitable site.
Robert Douglas, who sits on the town council as a Lib Dem, has asked the authority several times for assurances that Congleton will retain a tip.
He has now complained that the borough has refused to share even “bland information” with him, such as how many sites it has looked at as replacements.
At a Cabinet meeting on 2nd February, he said: “On 15th November, I submitted a freedom of information request asking for details of the new recycling sites that Cheshire East Council is still seriously looking at as being suitable to replace the existing Congleton site.
“Cheshire East refused to provide that information on the grounds of commercial sensitivity. I appealed that decision and, in my appeal, I requested only bland information such as the number of sites that the council is still seriously considering as replacements, as well as their approximate acreage and distance from the town centre.
“Yet, despite my request that would enable Cheshire East to respond without compromising commercial sensitivities, the council advised that it still refused to provide any of this information.
“In 2018, the council set aside £50,000 for consultants to look at the feasibility of other sites. So what information in terms of number of sites, approximate sizes and distances from the town centre are you willing to give today to demonstrate to the people of Congleton that you are seriously looking at new alternative sites?
“Or are you just going to continue to refuse to provide any information, which has the real danger of making the people of Congleton conclude that the recent public consultation exercise was just a sham?”
Labour Coun Laura Crane, the Cabinet member for highways and waste, responded: “We have had a fantastic response to the consultation on household waste and we are still considering the results of it.
“This will be discussed further at the Environment and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 12th February. At this stage, I do not want to add anything else.
“With regard to your freedom of information request, there is nothing I can add to that. It has been through the Government process, which is not my particular area of expertise, but the responses you have received have been those that we can provide at this moment in time.”
Brereton Parish Council recently wrote to Coun Crane to suggest the land off Viking Way currently used as a base by link road contractor Graham had potential as a site for a new tip.
Conservative Coun John Wray told the Chronicle: “It seemed like a very good idea to me because it’s in Congleton and is easily accessible off the new link road. If we’re going to have a replacement site it needs to be in the town itself and accessible.”