Where are our jobs?

An artist's impression of the new South Kirkby recycling centre
An artist's impression of the new South Kirkby recycling centre

PLANS to build a waste recycling site in South Kirkby, which were set to create 275 jobs, have been delayed by almost a year.

A state-of-the-art household waste recycling centre, on South Kirkby Business Park, was due to be open by September 2014 as part of a district-wide Wakefield Council plan to pass waste management services onto a consortium of private companies.

But the private finance initiative (PFI) contract between the council and the consortium, which includes Shanks Group and Babcock Southern Holdings, has still not been signed.

And it will take two and a half years to build the new site at South Kirkby once contracts are signed, along with new facilities in Wakefield and Glasshoughton.

The latest delay means the South Kirkby facility could not open until as late as summer 2015 - almost a year behind schedule - and comes after years of delays.

The council first outlined plans for the PFI deal in 2005 and an original consortium of the VT Group and Estech Europe Ltd was set up in November 2007.

But The VT Group was acquired by Babcock Group plc in July 2010 and the plans almost collapsed when Babcock hinted it may pull out. Only after months of crunch talks, the deal was back on.

The council was then hoping to start the contract in March this year, but was hit with further delays.

Around 200 jobs would be created during the construction of the site, with a further 75 once it was up and running.

Peter Buttree, chair of South Kirkby Community Association, which runs support sessions for the unemployed in the town, said: “The delay is very sad news for South Kirkby.”

“We’ve had people who have worked at recycling plants and were hoping to get employment at the new site but they are being forced into other jobs or are simply going without a job.

“They are qualified people who were hoping to work at the site.

“It’s knocking their confidence and it’s knocking everybody’s aspirations.”

As part of the plan, the current household waste sites in Fitzwilliam and South Kirkby would close, with employees being transferred to Babcock.

District councillor Laurie Harrison said: “The plant will provide good jobs for the people of South Kirkby but they should be working there now.

“We desperately need these jobs and 275 would be more than welcome.

“I am very much in favour of the project but we have waited long enough. We have been going to build it for over five years.”

Andrew Balchin, corporate director for communities at Wakefield Council, said that the contract should be signed by the end of December with a start date of early next year.

He said: “We will start the process of handing over waste management to Shanks early in the new year following the signing of the waste PFI contract.

“During the first two and a half years Shanks will build the new waste facilities at South Kirkby, Denby Dale Road and Glasshoughton.”