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Delay to decision on Norfolk incinerator criticised in letter to communities secretary

PUBLISHED: 17:23 10 March 2014 | UPDATED: 17:23 10 March 2014

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

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

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Put us out of our misery – that is the message which leaders at Norfolk County Council have sent to the man who will decide whether the controversial incinerator at King’s Lynn will go ahead or not.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles had been due to make a decision on the burner on January 14, but two months on and he has yet to make an announcement.

The planning application for the burner at Saddlebow was “called in” by the government in August 2012 after a record number of people wrote in.

An inquiry was held last spring and the report of the inspector who headed the probe reached Mr Pickles’ desk in the autumn. A decision had been expected on or before January 14.

Now, county council leader George Nobbs, Labour, his Liberal Democrat deputy James Joyce and Conservative Bev Spratt, the chairman of the council’s environment, waste, transport and development overview and scrutiny panel, have written to Mr Pickles calling for him to announce his decision.

The letter states: “It seems wholly unreasonable to withhold your decision, whatever that decision may be, in the knowledge that the county council as a direct result is prejudiced financially by the delay.

“Norfolk needs to know whether we will have to pay approximately £30m in compensation to the contractors in the event of planning failure. The 840,000 people of Norfolk who depend on the services that we provide deserve an answer.

“The absence of any clear reason or explanation for the delay is leading to suggestions locally that the decision is being delayed for political reasons, a rumour that we are sure you would wish to dispel just as strongly as we do.

“This protracted delay is damaging both to council taxpayers and the public faith in democracy.”

In October last year, Defra pulled a £169m grant towards the scheme, which campaigners hoped would see the plans go up in smoke. But amid warnings from the council’s finance officers of the financial impact to the council of cancelling the contract – advice which some critics have criticised – councillors decided to press ahead and agreed, by 40 votes to 38, to agree a revised project plan for the Saddlebow plant. There have been calls for an extraordinary council meeting next month for the full council to vote once again on whether to press ahead with the scheme.

What’s your view on the incinerator saga? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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