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Controversial King’s Lynn incinerator plans recommended for approval by Norfolk County Council officers

12:37 19 June 2012

The proposed site of the incinerator at Saddlebow. Picture: Ian Burt.

The proposed site of the incinerator at Saddlebow. Picture: Ian Burt.

Archant © 2011

County councillors are being recommended to approve controversial plans for an Anglo-American consortium to build an incinerator on the edge of King’s Lynn.

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Who is on Norfolk County Council’s planning committee?

Bert Bremner (University)

Nigel Dixon (Hoveton and Stalham)

Phillip Duigan (Dereham South)

Adrian Gunson (Loddon)

Ronald Hanton (Caister-on-Sea)

David Harrison (Aylsham)

Marcus Hemsley (Wensum)

Brian IIes (Acle)

James Joyce (Reepham)

Judy Leggett (Old Catton)

Paul Rice (South Smallburgh)

John Rogers (Watton)

James Shrimplin (East Flegg)

Barry Stone (Lothingland)

Hilary Thompson (Cromer)

Tony Tomkinson (Clavering)

Martin Wilby (East Depwade)

Chairman: John Rogers

Vice Chair: James Shrimplin

Composition: 13 Conservative, two Liberal Democrat, one Green, one Labour

Planning officers at the authority published their report on Cory Wheelabrator’s proposed incinerator in Saddlebow today and have recommended the plans are approved. Click on the link on the right-hand side of the page to see the officers’ report.

Norfolk County Council’s planning committee will give their verdict on the plans during a meeting at County Hall, in Norwich, on Friday, June 29. The meeting is scheduled to start at 10am.

The officers’ report reads: “This is a key proposal in terms of making a major provision for the treatment of Norfolk’s waste and moving this up the waste hierarchy from landfill.

“The proposal would have the additional benefits of generating energy in the form of power to be exported to the National Grid, and with the potential for heat and steam to be supplied to an adjacent major industrial development.

“A grant of PFI credits has been awarded by the Government and this financial provision will help facilitate the delivery of the project and consequent financial savings to the county council in the provision of the waste management service.

“The proposal has attracted a high volume of public responses. The majority of the responses received from local residents object to the proposal. The objections centre on concerns about air quality and effects on health, concerns about effects on wildlife and extra traffic.

“Objectors are also concerned about the siting of such a strategic facility on the western edge of the county. There is also local concern about effects on local businesses resulting from a reduction in tourism and effects on local farming and fishing industries.”

Opponents of the incinerator said the recommendation came as no surprise and remained adamant that Communities Secretary Eric Pickles should call in the council decision and reject it.

The planners’ report, however, says opponents’ concerns have been answered. It says: “The county council has employed consultants to advise on air quality, impacts on health and on designated natural habitats.

“The technical evidence presented by the applicants has been rigorously examined by the consultants and statutory consultees and this has been verified as demonstrating there would be no adverse impacts on air quality, human health and designated habitats.

“Statutory consultees have also verified the impact assessments on other relevant matters such as highways impact are acceptable. An appropriate assessment has been carried out, which concludes that the project would not adversely affect the integrity of European designated habitats.

“The proposal is considered to accord with the development plan and other material considerations including national planning policies also indicate that planning permission should be granted.”

Anti-incinerator campaigner Mike Knights said: “Their recommendation comes as no surprise. It shows they are ignoring people’s concerns and are not going for the best solution.”

Fellow anti-incinerator campaigner Michael De Whalley said: “The people of West Norfolk have made every effort to engage with Norfolk County Council towards finding a more responsible and socially acceptable solution. The planning consultation has attracted nearly 8,400 representations to date, of which more than 7,600 are objections.

“NCC has consistently failed to address people’s concerns and the officers’ recommendation reflects this.

“No one in West Norfolk will ever forget county council’s shameful response to the overwhelming poll last year.

“This project is flawed and its building will serve as a fitting crematorium for what little remains of Norfolk’s democracy and NCC’s reputation. I do not believe this saga will end at the planning committee on June 29.”

South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss said: “Sixty-five thousand residents of West Norfolk voted against the incinerator and their voices need to be heard.

“I believe the scheme in its current format is in the wrong location, too large and in the long-term unsustainable.

“I have repeatedly advocated the creation of a pan-Norfolk waste operation to deal with waste more efficiently.”

West Norfolk council leader Nick Daubney added: “We’re not surprised but we are disappointed, of course. I still feel strongly it’s preposterous for a decision of this size to be made in such a short meeting.

“We as a borough council have been given 10 minutes to speak on the biggest issue in this borough I can remember.

“If 65,000 people in this borough said they didn’t want this then I think the county council should take notice of that. This is the amount of time we might devote to a small-scale house extension.”

There will be 120 seats available at next week’s planning meeting for members of the public, 40 in the public gallery and a further 80 in an adjoining committee room with an audio link.

These seats will be available on a first come, first served basis on the day. Parking at County Hall will also be limited on the day.

The county council has also revealed the format of the meeting which will start with a presentation of the final report by officers.

This will be followed by 30 minutes where members of the public objecting to the proposal can speak, 10 minutes for statutory consultees including West Norfolk Council, 10 minutes for the surrounding parish councils, 30 minutes for the applicant and supporters and ten minutes for the local member, David Harwood.

Each opportunity to speak will be followed by the chance for questions by members of the planning committee. At the end of the presentations there will be a debate and a decision by the planning committee.

The authority has said standard time for objectors and the applicant and supporters has been extended in recognition of the importance of this issue.

Anyone wishing to speaking at next week’s meeting is advised to call the county council’s democratic services department on 01603 223055.

Norfolk County Council awarded the contract to build the incinerator, known as the Willows Power and Recycling Facility, to Cory Wheelabrator last year.

The county council says the plant is needed to prevent the county’s waste having to go to landfill. It says it will save millions of pounds a year.

Paul Green, speaking on behalf of Cory Wheelabrator, has previously said: “The proposed Willows Power and Recycling facility has the potential to supply electricity to the National Grid and steam to neighbouring industry, which would make this plant one of the most efficient in the UK.

“We’ve held early stage discussions with Palm Paper on whether the Willows facility could supply steam to the paper mill, but at present no contract is in place.”

Environment secretary Caroline Spelman has already announced the approval of £91m in PFI funding to Norfolk County Council to go towards the cost of the proposed incinerator in Saddlebow.

However West Norfolk council intends to challenge Ms Spelman’s decision to approve the PFI funding and has previously urged communities secretary Eric Pickles to call in the scheme so an independent inspector can have the final say.

The council claims Ms Spelman broke her own guidelines in awarding the money because there is not a “broad consensus of support” for the £500m incinerator. A poll carried out in West Norfolk saw 65,000 people vote against the building of the plant.

Anti-incinerator campaigners attempted to secure a judicial review into the process by which the county council agreed to award a contract to waste company Cory Wheelabrator but a High Court judge dismissed their attempt in December.

West Norfolk Council has also revealed it has been in talks with a consortium offering an alternative to the disposal of black bin waste.

Next week its councillors will be asked to approve formal contract negotiations with the group, called Material Works and including a firm called Duratrust, which has developed a process to recycle waste into an inert plastic-like material.

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