County councillors have approved plans for an in incinerator in King’s Lynn. But the decision will be put on hold, while Communities Secretary Eric Pickles checks over the paperwork.

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Feelings ran high at County Hall in Norwich today, before councillors voted by nine to four to approve the controversial “energy from waste” plant, with two abstentions.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles could now decide that decision should stand, or he could “call-in” the application, meaning there would be a public enquiry chaired by an independent inspector.

Graham Plant, Norfolk’s cabinet member for planning and transportation, said: “Members of the committee thoroughly examined the application and after a full and frank debate accepted officers’ recommendations.

“The committee was satisfied that officers had addressed all relevant considerations and agreed that planning permission should be granted. This is, of course, subject to the Secretary of State’s views.”

Bill Borrett, the county council’s cabinet member for environment and waste, said: “This is another step on the way and I am relieved that after detailed consideration the planning committee have decided to accept the recommendation to grant planning permission.

“I believe that this proposal has been subjected to the most intensive scrutiny, by the planning process, the public, the Environment Agency and DEFRA, which has approved the largest grant Norfolk has received for a single project. I have been very keen that we do everything by the book, so I welcome the Secretary of State’s interest.”

Earlier, the company which wants to build the incinerator, insisted the chosen site was the best possible location for it.

Richard Wilkinson, for Cory Environmental, said the Saddlebow site was the best possible site for such a plant in Norfolk.

And he hit out at “misinformation or misrepresentation” over national planning policy - seemingly a swipe at West Norfolk Council’s claim the application is against planning policy.

Cory Environmental’s planning director John Bolden also said the £20m breakage clause, potentially payable by the council if the scheme fails, was not unique to Norfolk and was standard practice.

Campaigners earlier told the planning committee meeting at County Hall that the plans for the Willows Recycling and Power Plant at Saddlebow, on the outskirts of King’s Lynn, should be rejected.

Concerns raised include the impact on health, traffic and flooding and why alternatives could not be used.

West Norfolk council’s planning chairman Vivienne Spikings criticised the lack of West Norfolk representatives on the planning committee and said confidence in the process had been eroded.

Planning officers from West Norfolk council said it should be turned down for being contrary to planning policy.

Before the meeting broke for lunch, North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham urged councillors to ‘stand up for democracy’ by not allowing an incinerator to be built at King’s Lynn.

Mr Bellingham ignored calls from the planning committee chairman to stop talking to make his plea at today’s meeting at County Hall.

Going over his three minutes of allotted time Mr Bellingham said the council needed to live up to it’s At Your Service motto and reject Cory Wheelabrator’s proposals for the Willows Power and Recycling Plant at Saddlebow, Clashing with chairman John Rogers, Mr Bellingham said he would not be stifled.

He said: “One of the lessons of the Arab Spring and events in Europe such as Greece is that you defy democracy at your peril.

“What will happen is that people will lose trust in you.

“I ask you today to stand up for democracy.”

He said ignoring West Norfolk Council’s referendum, which saw 65,000 people vote against incineration, went against the spirit of the Localism Act and the Big Society.

Norfolk County Council’s planning regulatory committee is discussing the plans for the Willows Power and Recycling Plant at Saddlebow.

Sixteen county councillors will discuss the scheme, with officers recommending approval.

But, if they are minded to approve the scheme, the decision will not be confirmed until after communities secretary Mr Pickles has reviewed the paperwork.

And the Communities Secretary could also order a public enquiry into the “energy from waste” plant.

Sixteen objectors, including North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham and county councillor John Dobson will share 30 minutes to have their say.

West Norfolk Council will get 10 minutes and parish councils five minutes.

The applicant Cory Wheelabrator, which has awarded a contract in February to deal with Norfolk’s waste, will get 30 minutes.

Virtually all members of the planning committee declared interests, with the scheme having been discussed at various parish, town, district and county council meetings, but they stressed they were approaching today’s 570-plus report with an “open mind”.

With the chamber and room next door packed with members of the public, chairman John Rogers said he wanted “a nice quiet meeting” and said anybody “shouting or screaming” would be ejected.

Members of the planning committee who are not here include Tony Tomkinson (Conservative), Bert Bremner (Labour) and Marcus Hemsley (Green).

They have been substituted by John Ward, George Nobbs and Jenny Toms.

Conservative Adrian Gunson is also absent, having offered his apologies, but he has not been substituted.

All nine Norfolk MPs have called for Mr Pickles to call-in the decision, meaning it would be taken out off the council’s hands.

A full public enquiry would then be conducted, chaired by a planning inspector, before a decision was taken by Mr Pickles.

Our reporters are be providing live coverage from today’s meeting on www.edp24.co.uk. You can take part using the hashtag #Klinc on Twitter.

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