Essex County Council has accused the company it entered into an £800 million PFI waste deal with of “obfuscation and half truths”.

In the opening day of the trial between the county council and waste management company Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB),  the court in London heard how the process to treat Essex waste was fatally flawed through design faults UBB should have foreseen.

At the centre of the legal bid from the council to quit the 25-year deal, are the three biohalls at the Tovi Eco Park in Courtauld Road – now calculated at about 50 per cent undersized.

Because of this the council says the facility will never be able to meet the level of performance first planned for it.

It was supposed to treat up to 420,000 tonnes of residual waste, trade waste, bulky waste, street sweepings and waste from household waste recycling centres, along with a smaller proportion of local trade waste from Essex and Southend, to ensure that the amount of waste being sent to landfill was kept to a minimum.

Due to the difficulties, more than 100,000 tonnes is being sent to landfill each year.

Marcus Taverner QC, representing Essex County Council in opening submissions at the Construction and Technology Court in London, said that when UBB realised the facility could only handle a fraction of the amount of waste it had initially been designed for, it embarked on a “shameless strategy” in blaming very early composition testing which graded the waste in high quality band A.

Currently, 268,578 tonnes – or 78 per cent – of collected household black bin waste is sent to the Basildon plant.

But UBB argues the wrong type of waste is being sent to the plant – still in the testing phase three years after it was meant to start full operations.

The council argues that since early 2016 UBB has not carried out contractually and compliant commission composition tests and the waste has been in band A.

The court heard that UBB denies that and asserts that since late 2015 it has been in band B.

The court also heard from the council’s team that instead of waste with a density of 0.55 tonnes per cubic metre, the plant is only being supplied with waste with a density of about half that – meaning specifically the plant’s bio halls are significantly undersized.

Mr Taverner added: “The authority suggest that  a convenient way of considering this case is in three phases.

“First is from invitations to submit bids in March 2010 and it ends with a contract being made in May 2012, and it is this period that if you look at the considerations of what happened, that the design process that UBB went through was absolutely negligent.”

He added: “Regrettably there are many examples, far too many examples of obfuscation and half truths.”

The case is scheduled to last for three weeks.