David and Goliath: Norfolk County Council spends �3.3m on advice over King’s Lynn incinerator, but campaigners say �25,000 could defeat it

Council leaders have defended spending �3.3m on legal advice over the proposed King's Lynn incinerator - as campaigners said they needed �25,000 to stand a chance of defeating it.

Dr Martin Little, chair of King's Lynn Without Incineration (KLWIN), told a public meeting in Middleton that the forthcoming public inquiry could spell the end for the controversial Saddlebow burner plan.

But he warned: 'You will not be surprised to hear that this will not come cheap. It will not surprise you to hear they will be spending money on some of the best in the land to represent them.'

Dr Little said KLWIN faced an uphill struggle even if it raised the money needed to present its case at the inquiry, which is set to start on February 26 and last for 20 days.

'It'll still be David and Goliath, but David will be able to buy much bigger rocks with more money,' he said.

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The meeting - attended by more than 100 people - came as it emerged that Norfolk County Council had already spent �3.3m on expert advice over the last three years.

Ernst & Young was paid almost �1.95m in three instalments for financial advice on the contract, while legal advice from solicitors Sharpe Pritchard cost just over �736,000.

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The county council also paid environmental consultants Enviros more than �645,000 for their expert advice and �21,000 to insurance firm Marsh.

As tonight's meeting got under way, Norfolk businessman Mervyn Lambert wrote KLWIN a cheque for �2,500.

'This is a Norfolk battle,' Mr Lambert said. 'It's not just one for the west of the county, it's for everybody. We're not only going to give them a good fight, we're going to win.'

Norfolk county council says that the burner, which would be built and run by Anglo-US Consortium Cory Wheelabrator, is the best way to deal with the county's 170,000 tonnes of black bin waste. But 65,000 people disagreed in a poll organised by West Norfolk council and critics say there are cheaper alternatives.

Defending the �3.3m legal bill to date Harry Humphrey, the county council's cabinet member for finance and performance, said: 'It is not surprising that we have needed specialist legal services and other advice to take forward The Willows energy from waste proposal.

'This is a highly complex project that has reached a crucial stage, but the cost of this advice is a fraction of the �8m a year saving for council tax payers if the plant goes ahead.'

Norfolk County Council gave the incinerator planning permission in July. But the decision was 'called in' by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, meaning there will be a full public inquiry.

More than 100 people attended last night's meeting, at KLWIN campaigner Mike Knights's farm.

'The people we're up against are going to be flying in the best representation they can and we've got to do as good a job as we can,' said Mr Knights. 'We're looking to raise about �25,000 - although it sounds like a fairly hefty amount of money, it's definitely achievable.'

Last week, David Cameron said the inspector should take note of the strength of feeling against the plant.

Replying to a question from North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham, during prime minister's questions, Mr Cameron said: 'I think it's very important that the planning system does listen to local people and proper processes are followed. And I'm sure that he'll work very hard in this case to make sure that happens.'

Mr Bellingham asked the Prime Minister if he was aware of the West Norfolk council poll, in which more than 65,000 had voted against the incinerator.

The public inquiry is being held at the West Norfolk Professional Development Centre, in Kilham's Way, King's Lynn. It starts on Monday, February 26 and is expected to last 20 days.

Anyone wishing to speak should write to the case officer Robert Cook, 4/02 Kite Wing, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay, Bristol, BS1 6PN.

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