Campaigners celebrate after David vs Goliath battle against incinerator

Anti-Incinerator campaigners (L) Mike Knights and Michael de Whalley. Picture: Ian Burt Anti-Incinerator campaigners (L) Mike Knights and Michael de Whalley. Picture: Ian Burt

Tuesday, April 1, 2014
8:57 AM

They were lost for words when the news they’d spent four years wishing for broke – the two Davids who’d battled to bring down Goliath.

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The sun sets over Saddlebow, near the site of King's Lynn Incinerator. Picture: Matthew Usher.The sun sets over Saddlebow, near the site of King's Lynn Incinerator. Picture: Matthew Usher.

“It’s been four years of nightmare,” said IT consultant Michael de Whalley, one of the founders of KLWIN (King’s Lynn Without Incineration).

“It’s always been an insane decision but for them to realise it after four years, it beggars belief. It’s taken so much effort for a community to have its voice heard – especially after that poll.”

Fellow campaigner Mike Knights has spent countless nights at his kitchen table writing emails and letters until the early hours.

“I’m delighted,” he said. “At last. Instead of being tied to the most expensive waste incinerator in Britain we can now save a fortune on waste treatment and protect our health and environment.”

What are the other options?

In 2012-13, Norfolk councils dealt with 391,000 tonnes of waste, of which 210,000 tonnes were sent to either landfill or energy from waste.

The report councillors will consider next Monday says efforts to deal with waste are likely to focus on “solutions based on landfill in Norfolk and treatment facilities in the region”.

They include an energy from waste plant in Great Blakenham, Suffolk, and treatment facilities further afield in the south of England, the Midlands and exports to the Netherlands or Germany.

The council is already sending 40,000 tonnes a year to landfill in Kent.

When asked whether the long-term solution could involve an incinerator, Mr Nobbs said: “We have just got out of the frying pan and I do not intend to get into the fire.

“The contract was not thought out, the long-term implications were not thought through and I do not want to repeat that again.

“Whatever happens, it has to be well-founded and based on all available evidence. We need to take a long, hard look at the future of Norfolk’s waste.

“The people of Norfolk would not want anything else.”

Speaking yesterday, council officers said the council had been exploring other ways of dealing with waste because the incinerator would not have come online for two years anyway but, asked about the long-term solution, they said: “That will have to be determined.”

Norfolk County Council kept plans quiet to start with. All they said was that a new recycling facility would be built at Saddlebow, on the outskirts of King’s Lynn near the speedway track, the tidal river and Relief Channel.

“It was meant to take us by surprise by calling it a fluffy name like a power and recycling centre,” said Mr Knights, a 48-year-old fruit farmer from Middleton, a couple of miles downwind of the proposed incinerator site.

“You can call it a fluffy name and by the time most people realise what they’re stuck with, it’s got planning permission and they’re half way through building it. I think we found out about it a year before we were meant to.”

Over in King’s Lynn, West Norfolk council started circling the wagons as an incinerator emerged as the preferred technology for the site, in March 2011.

It agreed to set aside a £200,000 war chest for legal advice and commissioned a poll of the borough’s 110,000 or so inhabitants.

More than 65,000 people – some 92pc of those taking part – said they did not want the incinerator. But the county council voted to push ahead with awarding the contract to Cory Wheelabrator.

The opposition grew louder the more county councillors ignored it, with angry protests as planning permission was awarded.

But even as the decision was announced, the government – which extolled the virtues of localism – struck what turned out to be the fatal blow when it called in the papers.

More than a year after a lengthy public inquiry, communities secretary Eric Pickles has yet to announce his decision.

In the end it was his delay which torpedoed the incinerator. It ran out of time.

West Norfolk council leader Nick Daubney said: “I am delighted.

“The incinerator was unneeded, unwanted and made no financial sense. We did a poll where 65,000 people said ‘no’ to the incinerator yet they flew in the face of the public which was arrogant. I think the politicians who have been promoting the incinerator should consider their positions.

“I very much hope that this is the end of it all. It’s very good news, I think it gives us an opportunity to come up with a joint and agreed solution for the waste in West Norfolk, and I am keen to be a part of that.”

County councillor Alexandra Kemp, whose ward sits adjacent to the site, leads the two-strong independent group on the county council.

“We’re very pleased with what the officers have recommended,” she said. “We’re hoping people will pull together and vote for King’s Lynn.

“Available green alternatives could halve the cost and save Norfolk taxpayers and people reliant on services £250m over 25 years.

“That’s before you consider that King’s Lynn deserves to have this threat hanging over it taken away once and for all.

“There was a campaign in Norwich against an incinerator at Costessey. They must have thought: ‘Ooh, King’s Lynn – we’ll put it there’.”

Common sense at last? What do you think of the latest twist in this long-running saga? E-mail newsdesk@archant.co.uk

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