EDP leader: Now’s the time to unite and move on from Norfolk’s bitter incinerator feud

The site of the proposed incinerator, at Saddlebow, near King's Lynn. Picture; Matthew Usher.

The site of the proposed incinerator, at Saddlebow, near King's Lynn. Picture; Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

SOMETIMES, in life, there is a bigger picture than the one which has been in front of you for so long. The fight has been intense, the cause fervent. It has been so close, seemingly so important and intense that it consumes everything, including energy for other matters of great importance.

The sun sets over the King's Lynn Incinerator site near Saddlebow. Picture: Matthew Usher.

The sun sets over the King's Lynn Incinerator site near Saddlebow. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

With this passionate picture in mind, let's move to one of the greatest counties anywhere in our country – beloved Norfolk.

Norfolk incinerator: How we got to today's crunch meeting

As Norfolk County Council gets set for crunch incinerator meeting, MP says 'we can bin it'

Norfolk incinerator: What are the alternatives?

Our great county is blessed in so many aspects of life that it is sometimes difficult to take on board all its riches in one thought.

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Yet today, the council which runs many of Norfolk's services – remembering the authority is NOT the county – is in a pickle.

It is mired in a row which has clouded both the future and clear thinking of the now for far too long.

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So today, your Eastern Daily Press, which has watched unfolding events at county hall with a mixture of bemusement and astonishment, says it is time to move on from the energy-sapping King's Lynn incinerator feud by scrapping the scheme without further delay.

Today is the first time the full council will debate the issue and this, in itself, is ridiculous. This saga has rumbled on for years.

For the councillors who represent us never to have had an opportunity to register their support or lack of it for such a plant in the council chamber beggars belief.

It was the cabinet – a handful of councillors in the then Conservative administration – who agreed to award the contract to multi-million pound contract to Cory Wheelabrator, not the full council. That happened at a meeting where the leader of West Norfolk Council, presenting his poll showing 65,000 people nearest the proposed plant did not want it, was given very short shrift.

And since then, much has changed. Not least the administration of the council and the fact that this plant is suddenly no longer looking such a good deal, after a massive central government grant, a sum of £169 million, was withdrawn.

Today's meeting is a chance for councillors to show they want to stop the incinerator in its tracks. If they decide not to accept the revised project plan, then that will break the contract with Cory Wheelabrator. And that paves the way for compensation, the firmest figure to date flying is £25m.

If you believe the council's interim head of finance, the council cannot get the money out of reserves.

But senior government sources indicate otherwise.

There have been claims that the council would face bankruptcy and would have to make emergency cuts which could see libraries and museums shut and more local authority jobs axed.

But this is an issue which has divided Norfolk for too long. It is time to ditch this hugely unpopular plant. There are alternatives which are better.

Our county's MPs, who have been accused of treachery by members of their own party, need now to join a 'New Norfolk' project, helping to propel the county forward in a spirit of unity. The EDP pledges to help.

Today is St Jude's Day – the feast for the patron saint of lost causes. What an appropriate day to recognise Norfolk needs a new direction.

County councillors can send a clear message to the authority's ruling cabinet – especially as the Government's Lord de Mauley says the burner is no longer needed to meet EU targets.

That's why he pulled the plug on £169 million of Whitehall funding – far more than the £25 million or so which might currently be lost.

We believe the row has taken up so much time and energy which could have been devoted to other vital concerns such as our schools and children's services. Norfolk has been failing in some of these areas. Today we call for boldness, humility and an ending of political dogma.

Ditch the incinerator without further delay.

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