Fresh debate over Norfolk incinerator fails to change lobbying focus

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

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

The green light has been given for council leaders to lobby the government and MPs to restore the cancelled grant to run the King's Lynn incinerator - despite a plea by opponents to give up that battle.

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controlling cabinet agree a revised project plan for the burner at Saddlebow in King's Lynn, which the government had withdrawn Private Finance Initiative (PFI) credits for.

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

The cabinet later agreed to work towards contingency measures for if the plant does not get planning permission, including lobbying for the restoration of the £169m grant.

However, that approach was called into the cabinet scrutiny committee and at today's two-and-a-half hour long meeting, incinerator opponents called for the council's cabinet to give up the fight to get the PFI credits back.

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They instead wanted the council to lobby MPs and the government for help in finding alternatives and ways to pay the millions of compensation triggered by cancelling the contract.

Council officers were quizzed over financial advice given; why so few councillors had been made aware DEFRA was reviewing the award of the credits and why Mike Jackson, former director of planning and transportation, had briefed senior civil servants on Norwich City Council's position just days after City Hall leader Brenda Arthur had written to the government to say her authority did not support incinerators.

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Conservative councillor John Dobson, one of those who called in the cabinet's contingency action proposals, said: 'To pursue the course of restoring the PFI in the new circumstances is to be in denial of reality. Furthermore, we would be in grave danger of putting our own management at reputational risk.'

But Steve Morphew, cabinet member for finance, said the council owed the people of Norfolk to try to get the credits back, as, if planning permission is granted, the authority will still have to pay for the running of the plant.

There was criticism council leader George Nobbs, acting managing director Anne Gibson were not present.

It was explained they were at the annual County Council Networks conference, hoping to speak to secretary of state Eric Pickles.

The committee agreed the cabinet should stick with its approach and rejected a proposal from UKIP leader Toby Coke that the cabinet should rethink.

• What's your view? Write to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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