King’s Lynn incinerator awarded environmental permit

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

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

Archant © 2010

The proposed incinerator at King’s Lynn has cleared another hurdle, after the Environment Agency today announced it has granted the plant an environmental permit to operate.

The decision by the agency is another blow to campaigners against the Willows Power and Recycling Centre, which is planned to be built at Saddlebow.

Norfolk County Council’s planning committee agreed to grant permission for the plant in June and, last month, West Norfolk Council saw its attempt to force a legal challenge over the award of government credits for the plant rejected by a High Court judge.

With today’s announcement, it means campaigners will be pinning all their hopes on communities secretary Eric Pickles ‘calling in’ the council’s decision to award planning permission, which would trigger a full public inquiry.

Bill Borrett, Norfolk County Council’s cabinet member for environment and waste, said of the decision to award the plant a permit: “I welcome this important announcement by the Environment Agency. It is a clear and unequivocal statement by an autonomous and independent statutory authority that the Willows can operate without harming the environment or human health.

“I now hope, that with all the statutory authorities’ opinions about the Willows before us, and opponents’ fears about health and environmental matters shown to be unfounded, the conversation about this proposal can begin to turn to the very significant benefits that this plant will bring to Norfolk in the future.

“Not least of these are the £8m a year savings it will bring us - or £200m over the 25 year contract - compared with the cost of continuing to use landfill.

“I have, frankly, been astonished by some of the claims - mischievously presented as facts - made against the Willows by opponents to the scheme.

“The agency has reached its decision after consulting widely with key experts and other statutory authorities including the Health Protection Agency, Primary Care Trust and Natural England.

“It adds to the considerable body of evidence which came forward during the planning process from air pollution experts - including the Borough Council of West Norfolk’s own independent specialists - and NHS Norfolk, that the Willows will pose no significant threat to public health.

“Residents should be reassured by the judgement of these independent health and environmental experts.

“This project has been rigorously scrutinised over many many months and at every step of the way it has successfully overcome every single hurdle.

“Today’s decision is yet another crucial step forward for the proposal and there are still critical tests ahead, including the current review by the Secretary of State for Communities of the planning permission for the proposed plant.”

A statement on the Environment Agency website read: “This decision is the outcome of our careful consideration and thorough determination of the application.

“As a result we are satisfied that the proposed facility will not harm the health of local people or the environment, and have granted the environmental permit.”

While the county council says the plant is vital to deal with Norfolk’s waste, a poll organised by West Norfolk Council saw 65,000 people vote against it.

The borough council is still hoping to secure an oral hearing in court to persuade a judge that they should be allowed a judicial review into environment secretary Caroline Spelman’s decision to award £91m in PFI credits towards the cost of the plant, which would be run by Anglo-US consortium Cory Wheelabrator.

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