Operations at the region’s new £4.2m waste transfer site at Easter Langlee began less than a fortnight ago but have already been accused of being shrouded in secrecy.
Confusion over transport routes to and from the former landfill site at Galashiels has been criticised by town and community councillors, and they say they are being kept in the dark about how the facility will be run.
And while Scottish Borders Council is hailing the region becoming a landfill-free area ahead of the nation’s 2021 deadline, residents believe they have a right to know exactly what the contract means in terms of costs and waste transfer lorry travel arrangements.
South Lanarkshire recycling company Levenseat took responsibility for transporting and treating the 42,000 tonnes of residual waste produced in the Borders each year at the start of this month.
And last week it emerged it plans to make 88 trucks movements per day, up from 82 under the previous system, through the town.
Up until now, it had been believed those trucks would travel from West Lothian via the A68 and over Lowood Bridge onto the C77 to Easter Langlee.
But an update to the community council from the local authority’s waste manager, Ross Sharp-Dent, last week revealed the lorries will travel south via the A7, going through Galashiels and along the B6374 Melrose road.
Galashiels councillor Harry Scott told the town’s community council that he and other councillors there had queried the transport route plans but had received no answers as yet.
“We were all under the impression that Lowood Bridge and the A68 was the route,” he said. “We have not got a magic wand and we can’t tell them what to do.
“It depends on the contract and what the officers have agreed, but we have never seen the contract. That’s the trouble.”
His counterpart Andy Anderson said: “I would have thought that was the main reason for strengthening Lowood Bridge.”
Critical of the lack of details available surrounding the costs involved with the new regime and exactly how it will impact on the town, community councillors agreed to push for more transparency on exactly what the new waste treatment contract includes.
Since that meeting, though, it has emerged that the five-year contract with Levenseat is worth £47m.
The works were split into four lots, with the price for the first lot attracting four bids and being won by Levenseat at a cost of £33.75m.
The treatment of bulky residual waste, priced at £10.5m, sparked two offers.
Levenseat was the only bidder for lots three and four, worth £1.5m and £1.25m respectively.
Community councillor Drew Tulley said: “I am amazed at the secrecy and how nowadays contracts are decided at the council between two or three people.”
Fellow member Bill White said: “I propose we write to all four councillors and leader Shona Haslam to explain our concerns.”
Bill Jeffrey added: “It’s like a secret society in there.”
Councillors took the decision to close the landfill site after almost 50 years and develop a waste transfer station there instead in August 2015.
A Scottish Borders Council spokesman said: “Levenseat is based at Forth and therefore will consider different routes at different times of the day, depending on circumstances such as traffic, which includes the A7.
“Having only just started the contract, we anticipate Levenseat will determine the best routes over the coming weeks.
“The number of trips is largely in line with trips to the previous landfill site and significantly less than could have been generated by an integrated waste management facility at Easter Langlee.”