Meet some of the people who fought against the King’s Lynn incinerator plan - and won

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

Friday, April 11, 2014
1:36 PM

When the King’s Lynn incinerator plan was thrown out earlier this week it marked the end of years of campaigning for a dedicated bunch. Chris Bishop focuses on some of them and their efforts.

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John Dobson. Picture: Ian BurtJohn Dobson. Picture: Ian Burt

It all started on May 14, 2010, when MICHAEL DE WHALLEY organised a public meeting, with retired US chemistry professor Paul Connett, an expert on toxicology, as guest speaker.

Mr de Whalley, an IT consultant from Grimston, had been campaigning since 2008, when it first became public knowledge Norfolk County Council wanted to build an incinerator at Saddlebow.

But when he stood as Green candidate at the 2010 General Election, he realised the issue wasn’t at the top of the public’s agenda.

He’d seen Prof Connett on YouTube, putting the case against incinerators.

Alexandra Kemp at the candlelit vigil against the incinerator. Picture: Ian BurtAlexandra Kemp at the candlelit vigil against the incinerator. Picture: Ian Burt

“He was brilliant, he was putting the right argument across very coherently, very succinctly,” he said. “I thought I’ve got to get hold of this guy, get him down to speak.”

As it happened, Prof Connett was about to embark on a speaking tour of the UK, organised by anti-incinerator groups. When Mr de Whalley contacted one of the co-ordinators, they said Prof Connett was booked up.

But a day or two later, he got the call – Prof Connett could be in King’s Lynn, at 36 hours’ notice.

Just 24 people attended the meeting, which was held at the old Nar Ouse Regeneration Area offices in South Lynn. But among them were two who would go on to become leading figures in the campaign, alongside Mr de Whalley: Mike Knights and Richard Burton.

The scene at County Hall where the decision was announced to scrap the incinerator. Michael Knights, right, with other campaigners. Photo: Bill SmithThe scene at County Hall where the decision was announced to scrap the incinerator. Michael Knights, right, with other campaigners. Photo: Bill Smith

Fruit farmer MIKE KNIGHTS from Middleton was all for the incinerator, the first time he heard about it, in early 2010.

“It sounded great to me,” he said. “I assumed it was the greenest thing to do, isn’t technology marvellous, we can get rid of rubbish and make electricity.”

But Mr Knights changed his mind after he attended the meeting organised by Mr de Whalley.

He said he checked out Prof Connett’s claims about emissions and their health risks and decided they were true.

“What do you do then, fight to stop it because it’s wrong, or just move house?” he said. “That’s why I threw myself at it.”

Mr Knights reckoned there were few nights when he went to bed before the small hours, spending long nights researching the issues, answering emails, organising meetings and preparing for the public inquiry.

Mr de Whalley said Mr Knights’s arrival on the scene was pivotal.

“I set up KLWIN (King’s Lynn Without Incineration) and Mike set up the farmer’s campaign,” he said.

“Six months after, we joined forces and it was joining forces that gave the campaign the impetus to work.”

RICHARD BURTON was another who attended the meeting. He runs a King’s Lynn-based environmental consultancy called Burton Environmental Consulting, which carries out environmental audits for businesses.

Mr Burton began looking first into the claims made by operators of incinerators, particularly their reporting of emissions.

He presented the anti-incinerator case at 15 public meetings against the county council to begin with, and Cory Wheelabrator when it emerged as the council’s preferred operator.

A running tally of votes taken at the meetings, held at village halls up and down West Norfolk, showed the public weren’t for burning.

Just three of them voted in favour of having an incinerator. And 1,397 voted against.

When West Norfolk council carried out its own poll, some 65,515 voted against and 5,173 in favour. Council leader NICK DAUBNEY said: “I was trying to keep an open mind, but I was really annoyed about how the county council announced we were having it,” he said.

“It was all going on around us.

“I went to a meeting with Derrick Murphy [former county council leader] and it was very obvious he was not going to listen, we were not going to have a constructive debate about it.

“He said the opposition was just a few activists. I knew it wasn’t, I wondered how we could demonstrate that.”

The poll came about after discussions with West Norfolk council’s chief executive Ray Harding.

JOHN DOBSON was leader of West Norfolk council before Nick Daubney. The retired colonel soon became a thorn in the side of the pro-incinerator lobby within what was originally the county council’s ruling conservative group.

Incensed that the people had been ignored, Mr Dobson refused to toe the party line throughout the five-year battle.

He was one of the six councillors who tabled the motion to terminate the incinerator contract, who walked out of County Hall victorious on Monday.

ALEXANDRA KEMP is about as far from John Dobson, politically, as it’s possible to get. Elected to the council on an anti-incinerator platform last May, she parted company with its Labour group when she refused to back the U-turn it performed in support of the project.

Ms Kemp is an accomplished speaker, who called out again and again for her community to be heard.

She claimed South Lynn had spent generations exposed to air pollution when the long-defunct fertiliser factory, know locally as The Muckworks, was in operation.

On Monday, she asked Norfolk to vote in support South Lynn. And most of Norfolk did.

TIM EAST led the campaign against the Costessey incinerator, near Norwich, where another community rose up and successfully said no. The experienced, canny advocate supported the campaign against the Lynn burner both in the council chamber and outside.

MP HENRY BELLINGHAM raised the issue with ministers and lobbied central government to see the downsides of the incinerator contract Norfolk had become embroiled in.

He now hopes go to central government, asking for help towards the £30m costs of getting out of it.

Council leader George Nobbs has blamed him for the withdrawl of £169m in so-called waste credits, which were to have bankrolled the project.

ERIC PICKLES might not have had a KLWIN membership card but many see the Communities Secretary as the most important anti-incinerator campaigner of them all. His delay in deciding whether or not to award the project planning permission effectively dragged things out until the incinerator was no longer financially viable.

If there is someone you know who played a part in the campaign and whose efforts should be highlighted tell us about them in the comments section below.

14 comments

  • It is always wrong to name names on something like this. There are a lot of people who will have worked quietly and tirelessly behind the scenes fighting the incinerator. Some of whom will have devoted every spare moment, others who have done unglamorous tasks like delivering leaflets or washing up cups on coffee mornings. They know who they are and they can walk tall today and every day, because they did their bit. I say thank you to them all.

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    Kadmos

    Friday, April 11, 2014

  • John Norton I am sure some will help but local people who know the background, area, council involvement, financial consequences and the likely impacts must be the ones that take the lead. It is no good leaving things to others to sort out, that is how the conservatives controlled Norfolk and had thier own way for far too long. West Norfolk is now a much better place to live after the community worked together, with help from good friends across Norfolk, for such a very long time.

    Report this comment

    Canary Boy

    Friday, April 11, 2014

  • The individuals whom you name - save possibly for the Communities Secretary - deserve enormous thanks, not just from the west of the county but from the whole of the county. Their principles appear to be totally in contrast with the principles of those who foisted this wretched project on us. I cannot imagine how much time they must have given up selflessly over the past four years. However, there is something slightly invidious about this article. While living forty miles away from King's Lynn, I am well aware of quite a number of other individuals living in that area who have also toiled ceaselessly to achieve the same result, but who have probably not been as obvious to the media. I hope that they, without necessarily having their names published, will also be recognised in some way. Most certainly, I salute them also. And while plaudits are being handed out, could I congratulate the Lynn News for its constant editorial and practical support for the anti-incinerator campaign. Its retired editor, Jon Buss, deserves a medal.

    Report this comment

    Nemesis

    Friday, April 11, 2014

  • Heroes one and all!

    Report this comment

    Barking

    Friday, April 11, 2014

  • So now we know where to send the bill for the wasted money and whose gardens to dump the waste in that will not now get burned.

    Report this comment

    Norfolk John

    Friday, April 11, 2014

  • Let's be honest, there's an election coming up, these NIMBY's had absolutely nothing to do with the project being shelved and remember it could still be built!

    Report this comment

    sonicsmith

    Friday, April 11, 2014

  • Nemeses you are right, as always. Many people have contributed massively but have stayed in the background for their own reasons. The strength of the opponents has been sharing of information, expertise and workload. People from all walks of life from legal professionals, planning professionals, waste management professionals, political hard hitters, farmers, researchers, through to the highly important partners supporting them, those helping with or attending fundraising events and the people manning stalls, writing letters attending endless meetings and posting on this blog. So many have played their part! The supporters liked to belittle the opposition but the facts are indesputable David Cameron knows that literally thousands of letters opposing the project were received by Ministers all sent with traceable names and addresses. The obscene poster calls those people a handful of noisy nimbies how wrong that ignorant person is!

    Report this comment

    Canary Boy

    Friday, April 11, 2014

  • Lets hope a similar group can be put together and stop the ridiculous dead end NDR.

    Report this comment

    John L Norton

    Friday, April 11, 2014

  • Of course, according to Dairy Roots and others, they're all just NIMBYs looking out for their own interests and not thinking of Norfolk as a whole. What they should have done is campaigned for it to be in the middle of Great Yarmouth - Daisy would have been happy then.

    Report this comment

    So_Many_Haters!

    Friday, April 11, 2014

  • Show me one single community who would want this in their area. Then come back and talk about nimbies. There are far too many decent and hardworking people to even attempt to name all of those who worked tirelessly for the cause. And of course so many of them are not limelight grabbers. There are so many all over Norfolk and beyond this county. I would like to offer thanks to the formidable ladies in Kings Lynn who built libraries of information that would make the British Library itself green with envy and also the lawyers who gave of their time and knowledge freely. This is such an enormous victory there had to be many hundreds of people involved on so many levels. And now the incinerator has been knocked into the long grass what will these people do? So many of them like myself who live nowhere near Kings Lynn and who first became involved because of the disgust at the way the Tories and the County Council disported themselves will be looking out for signs of bad behaviour in Norfolk. So watch out. The campaigners have not gone away, they will be back. So better to behave yourselves Councillors and Officers. You will never ever have free run to ride roughshod over Norfolk again.

    Report this comment

    alecto

    Friday, April 11, 2014

  • Many thanks to all those who are mentioned above, they have worked tirelessly and at great personal sacrifice. I would also like to thank all those who have not, or do not want to be mentioned, their incredible research and tenacity has opened many eyes to the real facts. twice Norfolk people have rejected this method, lets have no more of it. I would like to repeat my suggestion given to Greens and UKIP last Mondat, G.Nobbs was too busy with PR but I have no doubt it is acceptable by others, to exhibit the plethora of alternative methods at County hall for a couple of days or three, for members to take note and to inform themselves. I'm sure one could arrange some seminars and handouts, watch practical modern methods on video and such like. but let us see more information being provided so that a factual debate can be had in future. Once again guys, thanks, you know who it applies to.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Friday, April 11, 2014

  • Of course, according to Dairy Roots and others, they're all just NIMBYs looking out for their own interests and not thinking of Norfolk as a whole. What they should have done is campaigned for it to be in the middle of Great Yarmouth - Daisy would have been happy then.

    Report this comment

    So_Many_Haters!

    Friday, April 11, 2014

  • So now we know where to send the bill for the wasted money and whose gardens to dump the waste in that will not now get burned.

    Report this comment

    Norfolk John

    Friday, April 11, 2014

  • Pulling an 'expert' out of a hat is a useful thing if their views correlate to your own. However, if you do your research you will find plenty of other 'experts' who may not agree with the one you've chosen. However, rather than dig over old ground shouldn't the EDP be looking at how and where the cuts to NCC's budget are now going to be met? Because, unfortunately, whilst some people have won an argument everybody in Norfolk will suffer to some degree when those budget cuts are decided!

    Report this comment

    Bad Form

    Friday, April 11, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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