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

Fresh row breaks out over King’s Lynn incinerator

Tuesday, November 27, 2012
12.00 PM

Opponents to the proposed incinerator in King’s Lynn have accused county council leaders of being on the brink of doing the people of Norfolk “a serious misjustice” for pushing ahead with the waste plant rather than considering alternatives.

Norfolk County Council voted in June to give planning permission for the plant at Saddlebow, but communities secretary Eric Pickles’s office announced the decision was being called in, meaning there will be a full public inquiry.

At a meeting of the full county council yesterday, a motion was put forward which called for the authority to use the period leading up to that inquiry in January to look at alternatives to the plant.

West Norfolk council is poised to sign a contract with a rival consortium called Material Works to turn its waste into an inert plastic used in the building industry instead. It claims that the process would be cheaper, more environmentally-friendly and create 200 jobs at an as yet unannounced site.

Councillors have been recommended to agree to enter into contract with Duratrust to begin dealing with the borough’s black bin waste from April 2014 when they meet on Thursday night.

As well as decrying the “democratic deficit” which led to the decision to award the contract to run the incinerator to Anglo-American consortium Cory Wheelabrator, the motion had called for the county council to sign a confidentiality clause which would have allowed them to be fully briefed on the details of West Norfolk’s alternative.

But the Conservative-controlled council rejected the motion, which was put forward by their former colleague John Dobson, county councillor for the Dersingham division, who was expelled by the Tories in the summer.

Brian Long, Conservative county councillor for King’s Lynn North and Central division and deputy leader of West Norfolk Council, had said in support of the motion: “This council does need to recognise that there are many ways to deal with waste. I see this an opportunity between now and the secretary of state decision.

“I am not a gambling man, so I don’t know if the chances with that inquiry are 50/50 or 75/25 on one side or the other. I have no idea how it will pan out.

“But if it pans out that it is not acceptable in planning terms then we have a problem. If we sit in this chamber and do not explore any alternatives we will do the people of Norfolk a serious misjustice.”

Paul Morse, former leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group, said: “The way the cabinet has handled this issue has shown the cabinet at its very worst, with its win at all costs mentality.”

But Bill Borrett, cabinet member for environment and deputy leader at County Hall, said he had heard “a lot of rubbish” during the debate.

He said the decision making process had all followed the county council constitution, there had been two judicial review attempts which had found no problem with the procedure and that the incinerator was for the good of Norfolk as a whole.

But he said he welcomed West Norfolk’s attempt to find other ways of dealing with waste. He said: “There are lots of solutions, which is why the proposed plant is not for all of Norfolk’s waste. It is for 170,000 tonnes out of million tonnes a year and will save £8m a year and maybe more.

“The council is keen to look at innovative ways of dealing with waste. The incinerator is part of the solution, but not the solution. I’d like to see recycling going up an awful lot.”

Mr Borrett said he was keen to see the details of the West Norfolk alternative and said, with the county council the statutory waste disposal authority, the borough council had no power to withhold the confidential information.

Mr Dobson said, if that was the case, officers from both councils should sit down and work out a solution so the county could be “appraised of the technological details of the proposal”.

The council rejected the motion by 41 votes to 23 in favour, with four abstentions.

Norfolk County Council awarded the contract to build and operate the incinerator last year.

It said the plant was needed to prevent the county’s waste having to go to landfill, which would save taxpayers millions of pounds a year.

But campaigners claim there are health risks and there are cheaper and more environmentally-friendly methods of recycling our waste. More than 65,000 people voted against the plant in a poll organised by West Norfolk council.