Veolia told to open incinerator documents

Waste firm Veolia Environmental Services has been ordered to hand over documents about its proposed incinerator in East Sussex after a legal challenge from environmental campaigners.

A local Friends of the Earth group wrote to South Downs Waste Services Ltd, part of Veolia, in March 2006 requesting the firm’s environmental assessment for the site in Newhaven under Freedom of Information Laws.

The company had replied that it was not required to disclose them because it was not a public authority.

However, following an appeal by Friends of the Earth’s lawyers, the Information Commissioner ruled that the company is the same as a public authority under the Freedom of Information regulations as a result of its contract with East Sussex County Council and Brighton and Hove City Council.

Friends of the Earth, which is challenging proposals for the incinerator, said the decision sent an important message to waste companies.

Phil Michaels, head of legal at the organisation’s Rights and Justice Centre, said: “In the past, waste companies have tried to wriggle out of releasing information to the public.

“Now it is clear that the public is legally entitled to know how their waste is treated by these companies.

“People all over the country can now get hold of information they may need to challenge controversial proposals, like plans to build new incinerators.”

However, Veolia Environmental Services said it supports disclosure on matters of public interest and had tried to withhold the information because it considered it to be commercially sensitive.

A spokesperson told edie: “While Veolia considered this information to be commercially sensitive it accepted the decision of the Information Commissioner.

“It should be understood that the information in question has been used by this applicant in connection with its case relating to the planning challenges being mounted to certain facilities which Veolia is obliged to deliver to its customer.

“On this project and on all other projects, Veolia only seeks redaction of any information which it genuinely believes is within the commercial sensitivity regime and only for the period during which any such information in sensitive.”

Kate Martin

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