Judge rejects King’s Lynn incinerator legal challenge

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

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

Archant © 2010

A High Court judge has rejected an attempt by West Norfolk Council to force a legal challenge over the proposed incinerator at King’s Lynn.

West Norfolk Council had sought a judicial review into the decision by environment secretary Caroline Spelman to award Norfolk County Council £91m in PFI credits to go towards the cost of the Willows Power and Recycling Plant.

But Mr Justice Eady has refused permission for that review, although West Norfolk Council will decide today whether to ask for the decision to be reconsidered in open court - a move which would cost taxpayers’ more money.

In his order, the judge stated: “There is no arguable case on irrationality or illegality. The claimant’s case goes essentially to the merits of the decision which was reached after a long and detailed consideration of all relevant factors.”

West Norfolk Council had questioned how Ms Spelman had been convinced, after seeking extra information from Norfolk councils that there was a “broad consensus” of support for the Norfolk Waste Partnership, to award the waste credits for the Saddlebow plant.

However, Mr Justice Eady said: “The argument...appears to be based on a misreading of ‘broad consensus’ as though it connoted unanimity.”

He said West Norfolk Council must pay DEFRA’s costs, which would be decided by the courts if not agreed by the parties.

But the borough council, which organised a poll in which 65,000 people voted against the incinerator, will decide today, after consulting lawyers, whether to request that the decision is reconsidered at a hearing in open court.

Nick Daubney, leader of West Norfolk Council, said: “We are disappointed that our case has not at this stage been given permission as we believe we have not yet received a satisfactory explanation for the secretary of state’s apparent change of heart.

“An oral hearing will give us the opportunity to persuade the judge of the merits of our case.”

He added it was especially frustrating that, despite the order from the courts being dated June 27, the authority had only received it on Monday this week, after it was mistakenly sent to Breckland Council.

That, he said, gave the council just a day to respond on whether to push for it to be reconsidered.

With £200,000 set aside by the borough council to pursue the judicial review, Mr Daubney said it was too early to say how much of that had been spent, or how much might yet be spent.

He said: “Sixty-five thousand people objected to this proposal and I think we owe it to them to take the best possible advice over this. “We don’t intend to waste money, but we will see what the professional advice is.”

Although Norfolk County Council’s planning committee agreed last month to grant permission for the plant, communities secretary Eric Pickles has requested more time to consider whether to call in their decision.

If he does, that would mean a planning inspector would look at the issue through a public inquiry.

And Mr Daubney said the borough council, which, along with all nine of Norfolk’s MPs, has requested that call-in, would continue to put pressure on Mr Pickles.

He said: “In the meantime, our focus of attention is to continue to press the case for Eric Pickles to call in the application and instigate a full, independent public inquiry.

“People who have an interest in this matter deserve a fair and transparent hearing. A public inquiry gives people the opportunity to make representations to an independent planning inspector.”

At County Hall, the judge’s decision to reject a judicial review was welcomed. Bill Borrett, cabinet member for environment and waste at Norfolk County Council, said: “I welcome Mr Justice Eady’s very clear ruling, which notes there is no arguable case on either irrationality or illegality.

“I said at the time the legal action was launched that I doubted whether the decision to pursue this legal challenge represented good value for local taxpayers.

“Securing credits worth £169m for the project over 25 years in January was very positive news for Norfolk residents as the grant represented the largest amount of central government funding for a single project that this council had ever received.

“I’m obviously pleased that the threat to the credits has now been removed.”

He said the case had been the subject of “intense scrutiny” and added: “There remain a number of crucially important hurdles to overcome, but this is another step forward for a project which will save Norfolk council taxpayers £8m a year - compared with the cost of using landfill to dispose of the same amount of waste.”

Last December, another High Court Judge refused an application by anti-incinerator campaigner Michael de Whalley for a judicial review into the county council’s decision to award a contract to Cory Wheelabrator to run the plant.

But fellow anti-incinerator campaigner Mike Knights said last night that the county council should still abandon the incinerator plan. He said: “Taking in to account the £20m compensation clause, abandoning the incinerator still makes sense.

“The amount of taxpayers’ money saved through ditching it for a more advanced waste treatment would easily exceed £150m.

“Outstanding questions need answering; why have cheaper more efficient waste technologies not been given a chance?”


  • If the Tory Wheelabrator Incinerator is built, it will stand for years as a monument on how NOT to vote!

    Report this comment

    Citizen of EUSSR

    Wednesday, July 18, 2012

  • There's no such thing as EU landfill tax.

    Report this comment

    Anita Dump

    Wednesday, July 18, 2012

  • I hope that the Borough's legal team were given all the evidence that has been gathered! If they had it all I fail to see how County can be found to have no case to answer. They have ignored and deceived the public and they have deceived Ministers. Unless of course, deception is now considered rational and lawfull! While the EA and DEFRA, as government agencies, have an agenda to progress the development as part of the National Waste Strategy one would hope that the Courts are immune from such considerations. I hope that Daubney's legal bods appeal and apply for a verbal hearing so the full arguments can be heard. The alternative is that the people have to accept that deceit by government bodies has become accepted practice, lawfull and rational, as long as it achieves the end result politician’s desire.

    Report this comment

    Joy, King's Lynn

    Wednesday, July 18, 2012

  • King's Lynn is ideal for this much needed development. The only other viable option was Gt Yarmouth but infrastructure makes Lynn the best option. I just didn't want it in or near Norwich and it's going to be pretty much as far away as possible from the jewel in Norfolks crown, all these NIMBYs whining, seriously, Kings Lynn is akin to the Mos Eisley Space Station, a hive of scum and villainy. Where better?

    Report this comment

    Duck and Dive in NR5

    Wednesday, July 18, 2012

  • Alecto, Perhaps West Norfolk Council have made a jesture rather than a stand! I sincerely hope I am wrong but it is the Conservative National Waste Strategy that this Conservative Council are, on the face of it, trying to stop. At the moment West Norfolk Conservatives are the ones who appear to be with the people (other than twin hatters, except Long) and so stand to be re-elected next year. Perhaps their attempt to stop NCC was half hearted and more as a jesture for the people.

    Report this comment

    Joy, King's Lynn

    Wednesday, July 18, 2012

  • It would be nice to see an analysis of the costs for alternative waste technologies.

    Report this comment


    Wednesday, July 18, 2012

  • It's all because of the EU landfill tax this was proposed in the first place,leave the EU, scrap the plans,problem solved!

    Report this comment

    Harry Rabinowitz

    Wednesday, July 18, 2012

  • It would also be nice to see the complete breakdown of NCC costs to us the taxpayers, not just the 86.000 that was spent on pro incineration 'publicity'. Norfolk'n good, you will have an alternative Ketts Independent to vote for, no doubt, or set up your own west Norfolk chapter.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Wednesday, July 18, 2012

  • How long does it take for a letter to be redirected? A snail could have crawled to King's Lynn faster from East Dereham. Is the indemnity for County Council Officers still in force? I cannot understand why this was a necessary cost.

    Report this comment


    Wednesday, July 18, 2012

  • It does not appear that the Environment is really in Judge Eady's remit! Quote: "Eady was once a successful libel QC who defended the tabloids that he now curtails, said in the Giggs case that "tittle tattle" had no "automatic priority" over the right to privacy. Characterised by his friends at the Daily Mail as "cold as a frozen haddock" and an "almost bloodless figure who sits in deathly judgment" on the press". Nice man!! I also wonder why Breckland Council held onto the letter for so long - Who authorised that to arrive at the last minute I wonder?

    Report this comment

    Nowhere man

    Wednesday, July 18, 2012

  • This is only a refusal on the grounds of the application. Reapply and get it right this time. All the judicial reviews I did in London we never once had one refused and never lost one - What is wrong with these people.? Try harder Daubney. I am sure there is more in the pipeline. All that is needed is for this to still be raging next May. If the people of Norfolk wake up and take exception to being described as sheep by the unlovely Ms Johnson and her mates then they will vote the shepherds out and all the rubbish we have had forced on us these past few years will stop overnight.

    Report this comment


    Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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