Incinerator debate latest: Norfolk County Council awards contract

Council chiefs have agreed to award a contract to build an incinerator on the outskirts of King's Lynn – with one councillor saying a poll which showed 65,000 people were against it had been discredited.

Anger grew today as plans for a controversial incinerator in Norfolk took a large step closer to becoming reality.

Fifty campaigners protested outside County Hall in Norwich this morning, but were dealt a blow during the afternoon.

Norfolk County Council's cabinet agreed to approve the award of the tender for the incinerator at Saddlebow to Cory Wheelabrator after a debate which went on for more than two hours.

The decision was made despite a poll held by West Norfolk and King's Lynn Borough Council last week, where more than 65,000 people voted against the plans.

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Anglo US firm Cory's own survey of 1,700 people showed 65pc of people across Norfolk were in favour.

Protesters had gathered outside today's meeting, waving placards saying the Big Society had spoken, while Nick Daubney, leader of West Norfolk Council made an impassioned plea for the cabinet not to approve the contract award.

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But cabinet members pointed out what they claimed were inaccuracies in the literature distributed with the West Norfolk council poll.

Bill Borrett, cabinet member for efficiencies, said: 'Councillor Daubney came here with a very impressive local referendum and I am in favour of local democracy.

'To come to this meeting with 65,000 voting against the idea of an incinerator is a very powerful message and something I take extremely seriously.

'But I have to say, though, that I am really disappointed with the quality of what was done, because I feel it will discredit future polls in Norfolk.

'I have been through most of the points on the official document sent to homes with the crest of the borough council on the top and from the information we have received today I Have been told most of the information was not correct.'

The whole cabinet agreed to approve the award of the contract to Cory Wheelabrator, apart from David Harwood, cabinet member for adult social services, who abstained.

Campaigners, speaking afterwards, said they could back up all the information they had provided for use in the referendum.

Mike Knight of the Farmers' Campaign which helped to organise the petition, said that the meeting had been a 'pre-rehearsed pantomime'.

'The term in the referendum is absolutely valid, it's the term the industry use themselves,' he said.

'I think it's very likely we'll end up going through the courts at every level until we win.

'I don't imagine the 65,000-plus people that voted are going to take this lightly. We're just warming up.'

Richard Burton, an independent environmental consultant, was also at the meeting.

He said: 'It was obvious many of the questions were planned. It was obviously a foregone conclusion.

'They chose to attack the referendum question on the basis 'mass burn incinerator' was used.

'The claimed it undermined the whole referendum. It's used by people in the waste industry to describe exactly this sort of project,' he added.

North-West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham today said he would ask the secretary of state to call in the plans.

'I'm flabbergasted, I'm staggered and amazed. It's a very dark day for democracy. I'm very angry, I don't think 62,000 people in West Norfolk will take this lying down.

'We're moving into uncharted territory here. People have put their faith in the democratic process and if they're trampled on and ignored, the consequences will cover the whole of Norfolk.

'I'm going to work tirelessly to defeat this ill-conceived project.'

South-West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss said: 'I am very disappointed that this decision has been taken, which I do not support. Local people have clearly spoken and should be listened to. I ask again that waste authorities in the county work together to deliver budget savings by driving up recycling performance as an alternative to this proposal. There is still the planning stage to go through and I expect to see a robust scrutiny of this application.'

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