Decision over contingency measures for Norfolk incinerator “called in” by opponents

The proposed incinerator site at Saddlebow. Picture: Ian Burt.

The proposed incinerator site at Saddlebow. Picture: Ian Burt. - Credit: IAN BURT

A strategy to come up with contingency measures should the controversial Norfolk incinerator get planning permission has been 'called in' by councillors, who want to call MPs to give evidence to committee members.

At a meeting of the full council last month, councillors agreed, by 40 votes to 38, to recommend the controlling cabinet agree a revised project plan for the burner at Saddlebow in King's Lynn.

And the following day, the cabinet, made up of Labour and Liberal Democrat portfolio holders, decided to agree the revised project plan.

That meant Cory Wheelabrator still have a contract with the council to run the plant, with a decision due next year from Secretary of State Eric Pickles as to whether to ratify the planning permission the council agreed to grant for the site.

Campaigners against the plant had said a 'golden opportunity' to scrap the contract had been missed, but many of those who voted to continue said the compensation payments triggered by scrapping it would have meant services would have to be cut.

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Earlier this month the cabinet agreed to draw up a 'war chest' of some £11.2m, to go someway to meeting the £25.9m compensation triggered should the plant not get planning permission.

They also agreed to lobby the government over the issue and to look at ways to make further savings.

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However, the cabinet's decision to agree to work on contingency measures for if the plant does not get planning permission has been called in to the cabinet scrutiny committee, a committee of councillors which looks in more detail at decisions made by the controlling cabinet.

Three different sets of councillors have called in the decision. Conservative John Dobson and UKIP duo Stephen Agnew and Dennis Crawford want to see cabinet reconsider the decision and stop their 'unconditional support' for the project, which had its £169m waste credits cancelled last month.

Mr Dobson says in his call-in: 'There is now increasingly clear evidence that this proposed project is a lost cause, the writing is on the wall and the cabinet should not be proposing to throw good money after bad.'

UKIP trio Toby Coke, Stan Hebborn and Paul Gilmour have submitted a nearly identical call-in request.

Among those the two groups want to see appearing before the committee are North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham, North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, former director of planning, transportation and environment Mike Jackson and council leader George Nobbs.

A third call-in request has been lodged by Labour's Alexandra Kemp, independent Richard Bird and Green Andrew Boswell. Their call-in focuses on their view that the cabinet ought to be seriously considering alternatives to incineration, particularly given the scheme's planning permission could be rejected by the secretary of state.

The cabinet scrutiny committee will meet at County Hall on Tuesday, November 19.

• NOTE: This is a corrected version of a story published on this site and in the EDP yesterday. In that piece we incorrectly stated that the call-in was of the decision to agree the revised project plan for the burner. The call-in actually relates to a document called the 2013-14 Integrated Performance and Finance Monitoring Report Addendum - Waste – contingency planning. That document explores the contingency measures to be drawn up in case the secretary of state decides not to ratify planning permission for the plant.

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