Both sides in the bitter row over Norfolk’s proposed incinerator last night welcomed the news it had been called in by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, causing a public inquiry next year.

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An independent planning inspector will now hear evidence from all parties before making a recommendation to the secretary of state who will have the final say on whether it should go ahead.

In a letter to Norfolk County Council’s principal planner Nick Palmer, an official in Mr Pickles’ department said the minister was very selective about calling in planning applications, only in general taking this step if planning issues of more than local importance are involved.

“Having regard to this policy, the Secretary of State is of the opinion that the application is one he ought to decide himself because he considers the proposal concerns matters of substantial regional and national controversy.

“The Secretary of State accordingly directs that the application shall be referred to him instead of being dealt with by the local planning authority.”

While anti-incinerator campaigners hailed the decision as a chance to get a full hearing of their evidence, the county council also welcomed the call-in, which could cost up to £1m.

Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy said: “We are very confident we have done all the things we should have done. The secretary of state is just reviewing it to satisfy himself. It is very useful that the secretary of state has this mechanism. If it aids the democratic process, it must be a good thing.”

Graham Plant, the council’s cabinet member for planning and transportation, said: “This can only be helpful in reassuring local people about what is a very significant matter for Norfolk.

“We are confident the application meets all planning policy requirements, the recommendation made by our planners was correct and the decision taken by the planning committee was the right one, given national and local planning guidelines.

“As people will be aware, we made it clear in a letter to Mr Pickles as far back as March 2011 that the county council would provide every assistance should he decide to call in the application, and of course, we will now be glad to do so.”

Bill Borrett, the county council’s cabinet member for environment and waste, added: “I have always maintained this process should be done by the book.

“I note the Secretary of State is particularly looking for further information about how Cory Wheelabrator’s planning application fits with some key policy frameworks. The forthcoming inquiry will test all these aspects and the final decision now rests with him.

“Today’s announcement can only bring further peace of mind to those looking for even more reassurance.”

But West Norfolk council leader Nick Daubney said: “Over 65,000 people voted against this proposal, only to have their views ignored by Norfolk County Council.

“We have campaigned long and hard for this call in so the decision on the incinerator would be taken in a fair and transparent way. Today’s announcement means that everybody’s concerns will now be heard by an independent planning inspector at a full public inquiry.”

Norfolk MPs learned of the move yesterday in a telephone call from Bob Neill, junior communities minister who told them one reason for the decision was the record amount of correspondence his department had received.

“I gather the Department has had nearly 6,000 letters. That’s almost a record, if not the record,” said North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham, adding: “It doesn’t mean we’re going to win but it does mean we’re going to get a fair hearing. Everyone will get the chance to have their say and put their case.”

South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss said: “It’s the right decision. It’s an issue people are very, very concerned about in West Norfolk.”

North Norfolk LibDem MP Norman Lamb said: “It’s a significant development and I welcome it, having made the request, because I felt all along that it was justified.”

Anti-incinerator campaigner Mike Knights described it as “fantastic news”, adding: “By having a proper public inquiry, all the arguments we have been making will finally get heard and it’s about time too.

“There is lots of work to be done now but when you know at last someone impartial is going to consider what is submitted to them it makes it worthwhile.”

Environmental management consultant Richard Burton said: “It shows the evidence we have provided to central Government is sufficient to cast doubt on what Norfolk County Council has been saying. I hope it will be a two-week hearing and we can go along and win this.”

More than 65,000 people voted against the incinerator in a poll organised by West Norfolk council.

Norfolk County Council signed a contract to build and operate the £500m incinerator at Saddlebow with Anglo-US consortium Cory Wheelabrator.

John Boldon, from the Cory Wheelabrator Consortium, said he was disappointed at the call-in for taking the decision out of the hands of Norfolk’s own waste planning authority.

He added: “We strongly believe our proposals will deliver the most sustainable and long-term solution for Norfolk’s significant waste problem.

“We will now engage positively with the Planning Inspectorate to demonstrate the numerous merits of our application.”

11 comments

  • I think "Norfolk and Good" is right - NCC have earmarked Coltishall as the site for the Incinerator. They will own what is classed as an industrial site which is much closer to the source of the bulk of Norfolk's waste generation. Although they will still need planning permission, how can Broadland or North Norfolk District Councils object - as "smithrob" says, these two councils were all in favour of incineration when they thought it would be in Kings Lynn, so they can hardly object to having the Incinerator on their own doorsteps!

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    Wisbech, CAPITAL of the Fens

    Friday, August 31, 2012

  • It's good to see that NCC are being held to account. Well done to the people of Lynn for forcing an enquiry. Take note Murphy, Jordan, Borrett and Co, Norfolk people are ready to be counted and don't think you would get an easy ride if you think the incinerator can be moved to ex RAF Coltishall - we shall fight just as hard!

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    Commander500

    Friday, August 31, 2012

  • County think the Chairman conducted the meeting well, using 20 years of experience, however that is not a planning refusal reason. European law and Scottish Waste Regulations 2012 will have an impact, and possibly the PFI review.

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    bedoomed

    Friday, August 31, 2012

  • "The Secretary of State is just reviewing it". Has Derrick Murphy finally lost his marbles? Does he have any idea what the actual process involves? In March 2009, the Secretary of State called in a planning application by Veolia for the construction of a waste incinerator at the former Rufford Colliery site in Rainworth, Nottinghamshire. In October 2010, the public local inquiry ended. In March 2011, the inspector submitted a 275-page report to the Secretary of State with his recommendations. In May 2011, the Secretary of State refused planning permission. The whole procedure took twenty-six months. And what is Cllr Murphy's plan for dealing with our municipal residual waste during this extended timescale - and when planning permission is refused? The NCC Cabinet has some serious questions to answer. Of course, the honourable step would be mass resignation.

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    John Martin

    Friday, August 31, 2012

  • WARNING to all residents of Norfolk.  Murphy and Borrett will not back down on building the incinerator, especially with the £20 million penalty clause. If there's any sign of the Kings Lynn site being blocked, they will simply look elsewhere.  Now it all makes sense why NCC are buying the old Coltishall base!  Either Thetford, Yarmouth or Coltishall will be used for the incinerator - after all, their District Councils seem to be in favour of incineration....

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    Norfolk and Good

    Friday, August 31, 2012

  • Sweet cheeks describes the response of NCC to the Call In as bolshy. However they have responded thus: Derrick Murphy has described the Call In as “useful and a “good thing”. Graham Plant has said it is “helpful”. Bill Borrett has said it will serve to bring “peace of mind”. I imagine if the Secretary of State does eventually turn down the incinerator we can expect them all to announce that "they are besides themselves with joy"... I mean, they wouldn't lie to us - would they ?

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    jpm@edp24

    Friday, August 31, 2012

  • Commander500 - the main difference in site location is that West Norfolk Council were against incineration. North Norfolk and Broadland were both in favour, so maybe if it is refused in the west we could see it built at Coltishall or beside the river in Wroxham or Horning?

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    smithrob

    Friday, August 31, 2012

  • So Mr Plant, if you foresaw the chance of a call in as far back as March 2011, knowing that could add a year or more to the process, and this is ‘helpful’, what contingency plans did NCC make to deal with the waste in the meantime? Mr Borrett’s been banging away about the need to get this started as soon as possible to start saving money (cough), and suddenly welcomes the call in. For once, the only honest person is John Boldon, who’s probably had to tone down his reaction for print. Good job they hadn’t read our local paper!

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    Honest John

    Saturday, September 1, 2012

  • Its amazing how NCC are so bolshy with this call in, there will be alot of things come out of the closet and the planning meeting they conducted was nothing short of a joke. The penny seems to have dropped with Cory Wheelabrator in as much as things could well go against them and NCC wont be able to sort it for them. May the battle begin

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    Sweet cheeks

    Friday, August 31, 2012

  • Does anyone remember how opponents virtually begged NCC to take the decision away from their own planning department early last year. They were told that the public had no confidence in NCC to decide the matter in an unbiased way for many reasons including the agreed £20.5 million breakage clause! NCC refused to even consider that. The cabinet have fought tooth and nail to keep all decisions to themselves and their chosen planning committee members, not one member from the West! The cabinet have also done the best they can to stop the opponents from having time to freely highlight their concerns before council as attendees of the meeting 29th June can witness. To now claim they welcome the secretary of states decision is unbelievable!

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    Joy, King's Lynn

    Friday, August 31, 2012

  • Oh my god I hope not that is all we need at Badersfield Ex RAF Coltishall we have enough problems on our plate as it is dealing with the NCC we really do not need this on top of everything else - lets hope sense prevails and the whole idea gets slung out for good. Wha happened to democracy? We need a good clear out at the NCC....remember elections are coming up......

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    Slosers13

    Friday, August 31, 2012

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