‘Short sighted’ sale of former rubbish tip in Forest Row criticised

A former rubbish tip in Forest Row is set to be sold, following the decision of a senior county councillor.

Wednesday, 15th December 2021, 12:19 pm
The community has been campaigning to take on Forest Row's former rubbish tip

On Tuesday (December 14), East Sussex County Council’s lead member for resources and climate change Nick Bennett approved plans to sell the former Household Waste and Recycling Centre in Forest Row. 

During the meeting, Cllr Bennett heard how the council had received five offers for the site — four from commercial bidders and one from the Forest Row community.

This community bid (backed by local campaigners) came from Forest Row Parish Council, which would purchase the site then lease it to the Community Interest Company (CIC) Frow ReSource to run as a re-opened recycling centre. 

This bid was also backed by ward councillor Georgia Taylor (Green), who argued it would make better use of the site than the alternative offers. 

Speaking at the meeting, she said: “We need to take into account the bigger picture for this. The bigger picture as far as I can see is we have a waste problem in East Sussex and all over the UK. 

“We are producing too much waste and we don’t have a good strategy in East Sussex to reduce waste, nor a kind of localised re-use approach. 

“Given that, I think that the proposal that Forest Row have put forward is actually giving something that could have wider benefit to East Sussex. I don’t see that being taken into account so far.

“I think it is really important to note the significant investment that has been put in already by the community and how important the local project and businesses are as partners in this.” 

Cllr Bennett also heard from Frow ReSource director Philip Rogers, who spoke more about the CIC’s plans. 

The meeting (which was held online) then entered into confidential session so commercially sensitive elements of the decision could be discussed. 

While Cllr Bennett said the meeting would resume publicly, when it did the webcast was plagued by technical issues making the rest of what was said incomprehensible. 

These technical issues were brought to the council’s attention, but the meeting pressed ahead.

The council later confirmed that Cllr Bennett had agreed to the officers’ recommendations; in other words, he agreed to sell the property (including an access road) to the ‘preferred purchaser’.

According to the council, this preferred purchaser is confidential and will not be revealed to any parties (including the bidders) until the call-in period has ended. Technically this purchaser could still change, should the preferred deal stall or be abandoned.

Even so, Forest Row campaigners are adamant their bid was not chosen.

In a statement released after the meeting, Cllr Taylor said: “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 is.

“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.”