Environment Agency drops its objections to King’s Lynn incinerator plan

Developers behind plans for a controversial incinerator were last night claiming a major step forward for the scheme.

Requests for additional information on issues such as flood risk, air pollution and health triggered a second 28-day consultation over developer Cory Wheelabrator's plans to build the incinerator at Saddlebow, near King's Lynn.

EA officials asked for clarification over flood risk and drainage arrangements on the site, which is close to the confluence of the tidal Great Ouse and Relief Channel.

Now the results of the second round of consultation into the plans have been published, and the EA'S response says: 'We have inspected the information, as submitted, and are now in a position to remove our objections to the proposals subject to appropriate conditions.'

Cory Wheelabrator spokesman John Boldon said: 'We are pleased that the Environment Agency has removed its objection following the provision of the requested further information relating to flood risk and the sequential test.

'This is a major step forward for the Willows Power and Recycling Centre planning application.'

Anti-incineration campaigner Mike Knights said: 'The EA's planning objection was probably withdrawn on the basis, if a flood occurred there is unlikely to be the loss of life which might be expected if a housing development were flooded.

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'The truth of the matter is if the incinerator site is subject to flooding it is not the immediate threat to lives which is the problem, it is the thousands of tonnes of contaminated ash opposite the incinerator site which would be washed over surrounding land leaching pollutants in to the water contaminating farmland, ground water and The Wash.'

Supporters claim the incinerator would create jobs, save millions in landfill taxes and divert 250,000 tonnes of rubbish from landfill.

But opponents fear emissions from the plant would bring risks to health and the environment.

Of nearly 3,000 responses received to the most recent consultation, the majority are opposed to the incinerator - though many do not address the issues included in the consultation.

Hospital consultants called for the project to be put on hold until the results of a government study into birth defects are known.

Consultant paediatrician Dr Barbara Piel wrote: 'I wish to object to this proposal on behalf of the paediatric consultants at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn.

'There are concerns about the effcts of incinerators on the young and unborn. The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has recently funded a new study to gain further evidence to start April 2012, with preliminary results available only in March 2014.

'Therefore it is prudent that any planning permission is witheld until these results are available and in the event that these results indicate a statistically significant health risk then planning permission for the incinerator must be refused.'

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital is remaining neutral over the incinerator. But staff have been told they can take part in the consultation and express their own views.

A spokesman at the HPA said its position was that modern, well-maintained incinerators did not pose a risk to health. He added the study had not been launched in response to any specific concern, but was being undertaken to update the agency's research on the subject.

In its submission King's Lynn Civic Society said if built, the incinerator would encourage other waste firms to relocate to King's Lynn.

'Cumulative impact for road traffic, sustainable waste management and the impact to King's Lynn will therefore extend far beyond this single application,' said its secretary Sally Smith.

The society also fears the future perception of King's Lynn will be blighted by the incinerator, which will be visible from the town's historic waterfront.

But in its response, English Heritage said: 'The plant is a large element in the landscape, but is sited alongside a number of equally-large structures.

'The additional information supplied by the applicant illustrates that while the plant will be visible from South Quay and other parts of historic King's Lynn, its impact will be masked by the other euqally-bulky structures on the site and the only discernable change to the view will be the flue from the new plant.'

Norfolk County Council officials will now analyse responses received, before drawing up their final report to councillors who will decide the planning application.

'To date we have received 2,864 responses to this second round of consultation and have now posted virtually all of them online,' a spokesman said.

'The final few should be posted by tomorrow or Wednesday. We are still waiting to hear from several statutory consultees and once we have received their responses, we will know if we need to seek any further information - or whether the information is sufficient to allow an officer to write a report which will go before members of our planning sub committee in the future.

'All responses received have been logged and it is the job of the planning service to examine comments and weigh them up against the range of grounds on which the application must be judged.'

Earlier this year environment secretary Caroline Spelman announced the approval of �91m in Waste Infrastructure Grant funding towards the cost of the �500m plant.

West Norfolk council has launched a bid to secure a judicial review of that decision, claiming there is not a 'broad consensus of support' for an incinerator.

Ms Spelman had earlier withheld funding over concerns at the strength of opposition to the plant.

West Norfolk council's lawyers have formally requested copies of any evidence she took into account before changing her mind.

Ms Spelman's office originally had until close of business yesterday to reply. But West Norfolk council said the deadline had now been extended.

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