Tuesday 14th December 2021
East Sussex County Council choose profit over people and planet as they reject the overwhelmingly supported bid for the Forest Row Recycling Centre.
This was an opportunity for piloting an innovative, local, community solution to the waste crisis. Forest Row Parish Council, in partnership with Frow ReSource, had a vision which chimed closely with local and national government strategy, and their goals to move towards a zero waste future. What ESCC sees as waste to be incinerated, Forest Row sees as valuable resource to be re-used. The community and environmental benefits were enormous, and carefully valued and incorporated into a clear business plan. The community in and around Forest Row were desperate to have their beloved tip back, to enjoy the second-hand shop and repair cafes again, and to be able to pioneer a new way for the UK and even the world to take responsibility for our waste. Villagers gathered to demonstrate their support earlier this Autumn. But yesterday it was as if the decision-making Councillors did not even acknowledge their existence, or the reality of our climate crisis, which ESCC itself declared two years ago. How can there be such disconnection and double-think in our local government? How broken is local government if even our elected Councillors, who represent the areas they know the best (in this case Cllr Taylor and Cllr Paterson-Vanegas) are ignored at moments like this?
County Councillor Georgia Taylor says "This decision is yet another example of how the ESCC and the UK government says one thing about the climate and ecological emergency, and either does the opposite, or falls drastically short of what is needed. ESCC has several policies that would support a bottom up, localised approach to waste reduction and re-use, and yet is not putting their money where their mouth FrowResource and the Parish Council provided an amazing and innovative pilot project that could have been scaled up across the county. This would have brought years of environmental, social and economic benefit to the county. But instead ESCC will have a short term financial gain and then nothing. This is so short sighted and damaging - to our community, to our future."
This bid had support across ALL political parties. Conservative MP Nus Ghani wrote “I have continued to explain the importance of this local asset to the council and to ask them to ensure that the bid is supported. Keeping the recycling centre open is an important step to ensuring that residents of not just Forest Row, but across the whole of Wealden do their bit to protect the environment and it is a unique opportunity to progress a project supporting Wealden towards ‘zero-waste’.” https://www.nusghani.org.uk/news/recycling-centre-forest-row-could-re-open
So what happened?
Astonishingly, it seemed the problem of waste was itself misunderstood by our council officers and politicians and even denied.
ESCC thinks that waste reduction is all about chucking waste into the incinerator, but this actually increases emissions and pollution. The incinerator is not waste reduction, it is waste disposal. We must create less waste in the first place! And Frow ReSource demonstrates the possibility of making good use of what would otherwise be thrown away. There is no waste reduction strategy in ESCC, there are no innovative approaches to stopping us humans from preventing waste in the first place. There is no innovative, localised approach to waste re-use (like compost, clothing, second hand items etc). How incredible that our local council officers and politicians don’t even understand the reality of the phenomenal challenges we face in 2021, the changes that are demanded of us in the immediate future, or the priorities of the government’s own strategy.
Money spoke louder than community
Despite encouraging Forest Row Parish Council to put forward a bid demonstrating value as a community asset, into which hours of volunteer time was poured, it was clear that there was no hope for any project other than the highest bidder. However, it does not have to be this way. The very next item on the agenda concerned gifting land to a community orchard elsewhere in Sussex. There is precedent for allowing community use of much more valuable land for eco-projects in Hastings. This wasn’t an impossible dream - it is absolutely possible and viable. Sadly our decision makers lacked imagination and perspective. And at what cost?
What next for Frow ReSource?
It’s been a long campaign of incredibly hard work from a few people committed to voicing the desire and needs of the many. This news is a serious blow, and the lack of genuine engagement disheartening. The decision shows the lack of understanding and vision from a council that continues to ignore the pleas of its residents. But, let’s not dampen our Christmas spirits too much. Frow ReSource believes that this enterprise will make a difference to our future generations, and this is not the end for us.
We are regrouping, reviewing our options and we aim to continue to find a way to give Forest Row a community shop and an option for waste that doesn’t involve driving 20 miles across our beloved Ashdown Forest.
We will continue to work towards a circular economy and a zero-waste village. Our children deserve it.