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EDP comment: Do the right thing - Crunch time comes for the fate of unpopular incinerator

PUBLISHED: 11:06 07 April 2014 | UPDATED: 11:07 07 April 2014

Protestors arrive for today's meeting at County Hall. Picture: Chris Bishop

Protestors arrive for today's meeting at County Hall. Picture: Chris Bishop

Archant

A crunch vote will today determine the fate of Norfolk’s hugely controversial £610m incinerator, with officers recommending that councillors bin the burner.

Eastern Daily Press comment

Today is a red letter day for Norfolk.

It’s a date which surely must go down as the day the plug is finally pulled on an issue which has torn the county apart.

Councillors hold the fate of the incinerator proposed for Saddlebow, King’s Lynn in their hands.

As we said last year, we think it’s a simple decision to make – bin the burner.

It is time to rip up this contract and start again. That will come at a cost – some £35m to be precise – and it’s a high price.

But it is a price worth paying to bring this poisonous saga to an end.

This farce, which could so easily have been avoided had earlier lessons been learned, has set council against council, pitted councillor against councillor and seen the views of the public ignored.

The reputation of key parts of local democracy has been left in tatters.

Our appeal to the members of the county council requires just three further words – end this now – so NORFOLK CAN MOVE ON!

Members of Norfolk County Council will meet at County Hall for an extraordinary meeting where they will decide whether or not to terminate the contract the authority signed with Cory Wheelabrator to build and run a plant at Saddlebow in King’s Lynn.

Ahead of the meeting this morning, anti-incinerator campaigners gathered outside County Hall, after travelling across in a coach from King’s Lynn.

A report by the council’s own officers, published last week, made the shock recommendation that the council should pull the plug on the contract before the cost of pulling out of the plant started going up by £400,000 every month.

The recommendation – which would mean the council would have to pay contractors Cory Wheelabrator £30.26m if it were agreed – was revealed in a report put together by Tom McCabe, the council’s interim director of environment, transport and development, head of finance Peter Timmins and acting managing director Anne Gibson.

The report states: “If the county council wishes to continue to await the community secretary’s decision, then the capped compensation for termination for planning failure must increase from £20.3m to around £25m from May 2014.

“In addition, each month after that, the capped figure would go up by another £400,000.

“This would mean that a negative planning decision after May 2014, or a successful challenge to a positive planning decision, would incur significantly higher termination costs.

“Meeting those costs would present the risk of greater implications 
for services than a decision to 
reject an increase to the breakage cap now.

“If the county council decides to terminate the contract, the current overall cost of termination, most recently estimated as £30.26m, would become payable.”

• Conservative councillors told to stay away unless they intend to back controversial incinerator plan

• PODCAST: All you need to know about the incinerator debate

The officers also state that the delay in Mr Pickles making a decision is reducing the value for money of the plant, although critics say that is a “smokescreen” and the cost of the plant is already poor value. The county council has built up a £19m “war chest” in case it has to pay compensation.

Officers state: “The remaining £11m could be achieved within the necessary timescale, albeit with significant implications for services.”

If councillors do terminate the contract, the council would need to find an alternative solution, both in the short-term and in the long-term.

Follow today’s meetings live on this site from 10am.

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