Council leader requests meeting with Environment Secretary to ‘set the record straight’ on King’s Lynn incinerator
West Norfolk council leader Nick Daubney has requested a meeting with Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman to 'set the record straight' over proposals for an incinerator in King's Lynn.
Borough and county councils are at logger-heads over plans to build an 'energy from waste' plant at Saddlebow, near King's Lynn.
County Hall officials believe the proposal offers the best way to dispose of Norfolk's waste. Opponents fear health risks, increased lorry movements and toxic ash.
Some 65,000 people took part in a poll organised by West Norfolk council, with 92pc voting against the scheme.
But Norfolk County Council voted to award the contract to build and run the incinerator to Anglo-US consortium Cory Wheelabrator, which has now submitted a planning application.
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'Disposing of Norfolk's waste is an issue that none of us can shy away from,' said Mr Daubney.
'It is clear that carrying on as we are is simply not an option. On Defra's advice, I have taken the time to meet with Norfolk County Council in order to look at alternative sites, methods and technologies.
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'It is now clear that alternatives were never going to be considered by Norfolk County Council. Whilst I was meeting with them, they knew that they had already received the planning application for the proposed plant in King's Lynn.
'I also requested that the consultation period be extended to 12 weeks, so that at least people would have time to thoroughly and carefully examine the planning application and accompanying documentation.
'To date I have not received a response to my request, and whilst I have learned from the press that the period has been extended from 21 days to 6 weeks, I strongly believe this falls woefully short of the time I think is required to go through this complex proposal.'
Mr Daubney has requested the meeting with Caroline Spelman MP because he believes that she is being led to believe there is a broad consensus of support for the county's waste strategy.
In a letter to county council leader Derrick Murphy last month, Mrs Spelman said: 'It concerns me greatly that there is such strong local opposition to the project.'
She added this raised the question of whether the �169m incinerator could qualify for PFI (Private Finance Initiative) funding, for which 'a broad consensus' is required.
In his response, Mr Murphy said there was a broad consensus of support for the plans.
'County were asked to confirm that a broad consensus of support remains for the waste strategy and to set out the grounds for this,' said Mr Daubney.
'All county have done is regurgitate old documents and extract the bits that support their arguments.
'This is simply unacceptable. Norfolk County Council are not listening to the valid concerns of local people and their approach runs countrary to the localism bill.'
Mr Daubney urged residents to make sure they made their views known through the planning consultation process.
Cory Wheelabrator's planning application is now available on Norfolk County Council's website www.norfolk.gov.uk. Issues that planners can take into account include noise impact, dust, smell, air pollution and health, traffic congestion, road safety, flood risk, trees and wildlife, design and landscape, and ground conditions.
He also urged residents to write to the Secretary of State, the Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.
'Anyone who has views on this matter should ensure that those who will be make the decisions are left in absolutely no doubt as to what those views are,' he said.
In a statement issued this afternoon, Norfolk County Council said: 'We have answered the points raised in Caroline Spelman's letter and continue to believe we meet DEFRA's criteria .
'Ultimately, it will be for the Secretary of State to decide whether we have done so to her satisfaction, but have pointed out to her that the project offers substantial environmental and value for money benefits for the people of Norfolk. 'A range of technologies and large number of sites were carefully considered as part of the procurement process. We have always maintained that the statutory processes - such as the planning application and the Environment Agency's permitting arrangements - offer the most effective way for residents to engage with the Saddlebow proposal.
'The relevant information and facts have now been published and we have been happy to agree to double the public consultation period to six weeks.
'This will formally begin on Wednesday, with a series of drop in sessions to follow at local libraries. Copies of the planning application will be available by then for inspection at the borough council's offices, King's Lynn and Gaywood libraries and will be placed in Dersingham, Hunstanton and Downham Market libraries shortly afterwards and the application can be viewed and commented on by visiting our website, www.norfolk.gov.uk and following the link provided.'