Six Norfolk MPs urge communities secretary Eric Pickles to call in King’s Lynn incinerator plan
06:30 22 May 2012
Archant Â© 2011
A government minister last night said he has “serious concerns” about plans to build a controversial incinerator on the edge of King’s Lynn.
Business minister Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk, has also written a joint letter to communities secretary Eric Pickles with Norwich South MP Simon Wright urging him to take the final decision on the proposed incinerator in Saddlebow.
It comes after fellow government minister and Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham wrote to Mr Pickles claiming the proposals are totally against the government’s localism and big society agendas.
So far, 3,565 letters have been sent to Eric Pickles’ office urging him to call in the decision.
Mr Lamb, formerly the Liberal Democrat’s Shadow Health Secretary, said: “I have serious concerns about the incinerator.
“There are health concerns and I am far from convinced that it is the right solution to managing waste. I do feel that the county council has ridden roughshod over legitimate public anxieties.
“Given the very strong local opposition I believe that it would not be right for the county council to be both applicant and decision-maker.
“I therefore believe that it should be called in. Simon Wright and I have already written to the Secretary of State making the request but I am also happy to join with all Norfolk MPs in presenting a united front requesting a call-in.”
South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss is opposed to the plan and has said the scheme is “too large and in the wrong location”.
Keith Simpson, MP for Broadland, and Chloe Smith, Norwich North MP, have said they support the idea of Mr Pickles calling the application in.
Mr Simpson said: “I just think there are sufficient doubts whether local people’s opinions have been taken into account and whether all the other options have been exhausted.”
Miss Smith added: “I certainly think it ought to be democratically scrutinized.
“Calling it in would ensure the range of views and information on the proposals are properly taken into account.”
However Brandon Lewis, MP for Great Yarmouth, and South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon did not wish to comment on the proposal. George Freeman, Mid Norfolk’s MP, was not available to comment on the plans.
A communities and local government department spokesman did not rule out the possibility of ministers calling in the application.
Meanwhile county councillor Tim East has said it would be “unacceptable” for Norfolk County Council to grant permission.
He said: “How can any of the 84 county councillors possible determine this application without taking cognizance of all that has been discussed in public during this sometimes acrimonious debate and make an informed, unbiased and balanced judgement. To me it smacks of pre-determination.”
He continued: “This is not a question of any individual councillor’s integrity. It just defies logic and human nature to argue that any councillor could put to the back of their mind all that has been revealed, exposed and publicised when this incinerator planning application is determined by Norfolk County Council’s planning committee.
“Under these circumstances, the secretary of state should call in this application for determination. Otherwise it won’t be seen by the public as an open, transparent and fair process. It does nothing the localism or the Big Society agendas.”
But Graham Plant, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for planning and transportation, said: “The Secretary of State receives many requests to call in planning applications of all kinds and the matter of whether or not to call them in rest solely with him.”
This latest twist in the on-going saga came as anti-incinerator campaigners claimed the “energy from waste” plant’s carbon footprint will be larger than all alternatives including landfill.
Environmental management consultant Richard Burton has said applicant Cory Wheelabrator’s carbon assessment makes assumptions in favour of the incinerator.
Norfolk County Council awarded the contract to build the incinerator, known as the Willows Power and Recycling Facility, to Anglo-American consortium Cory Wheelabrator last year.
The county council says the plant is needed to prevent the county’s waste having to go to landfill. It says it will save millions of pounds a year.
Environment secretary Caroline Spelman has already announced the approval of £91m in PFI funding to Norfolk County Council to go towards the cost of the proposed incinerator in Saddlebow.
However West Norfolk council intends to challenge Ms Spelman’s decision to approve the PFI funding and has previously urged communities secretary Eric Pickles to call in the scheme so an independent inspector can have the final say.
The council claims Ms Spelman broke her own guidelines in awarding the money because there is not a “broad consensus of support” for the £500m incinerator. A poll carried out in West Norfolk saw 65,000 people vote against the building of the plant.
Anti-incinerator campaigners attempted to secure a judicial review into the process by which the county council agreed to award a contract to waste company Cory Wheelabrator but a High Court judge dismissed their attempt in December.
The chief executive of King’s Lynn’s Palm Paper has also denied a claim his company is in “advanced” talks to buy power generated from the controversial incinerator.
Anglo-American consortium Cory Wheelabrator claimed talks with the firm to buy steam and/or power from its proposed incinerator in Saddlebow are at an “advanced stage”.
But, in a letter to anti-incinerator campaigners, Dr Wolfgang Palm said this claim, made in public documents submitted to Norfolk County Council, is incorrect.
In response, Paul Green, speaking on behalf of Cory Wheelabrator, last week said: “The proposed Willows Power and Recycling facility has the potential to supply electricity to the National Grid and steam to neighbouring industry, which would make this plant one of the most efficient in the UK.
“We’ve held early stage discussions with Palm Paper on whether the Willows facility could supply steam to the paper mill, but at present no contract is in place.”