Incinerator opponents plan to continue fight against the burner despite defeat in vote
- Credit: copyright: Archant 2013
Campaigners have labelled today's crunch vote not to ditch the controversial Norfolk incinerator as a 'missed opportunity' - but have vowed to fight on against the proposal.
Norfolk county councillors voted by 40 to 38 to recommend to cabinet that the revised project plan for the proposed burner at Saddlebow, near King's Lynn be accepted.
About 75 people were packed into the public gallery at County Hall in Norwich to listen to a stormy three-hour debate which included cries of outrage from the public gallery and tears from a councillor torn by the decision.
Mike Knights, vice-chairman of the campaign group King's Lynn Without Incineration (KLWIN), said he was disappointed but had expected the plan to be approved - although he had not expected it to be so close.
He said: 'Anyone who thinks this draws a line under the issue is mistaken.
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'I will be continuing to oppose it. There are still opportunities ahead that mean it could be stopped.
'They could've ended this today and drawn a line under it. Now it is just going to drag on.
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'By not taking the responsible step and pulling the plug now, we could find ourselves ultimately having to spend more by having this delay.'
George Nobbs, leader of Norfolk County Council, said he was 'relieved' at the recommendation which councillors had made, which he said prevented a compensation bill which would have hit services.
He said: 'It would have been devastating had the vote gone the other way. What people have been asking for they have got - a free vote, a council debate, a public inquiry and two independent reports at cost to the taxpayer.
'I do not see what more they could ask for, but I fear they will not accept this result. I fear there is nothing they would accept if it is not in total agreement with their point of view.'
Mr Nobbs said the incinerator issue had 'poisoned' Norfolk for years and that it was 'time to move on'.
Bill Borrett, leader of the Conservative group and former cabinet member for environment and waste, said: 'I am glad the council has taken the very sensible step of continuing the project.
'Although the loss of the Waste Infrastructure Credits is a significant blow, the project will still deliver savings of several million pounds a year which will be used to protect front-line services.'
During the meeting UKIP group leader Richard Coke say the council would be 'turning its back on democracy' by accepting the revised project plan.
He was later followed by Green Richard Bearman and Lib Dem Brian Watkins, both of whom received rapturous rounds of applause as they urged councillors to vote against the revised plan.
Mr Watkins said: 'The people don't want it, the government doesn't support it and the county doesn't need it. The time has come to say no.'
However Conservative group leader Bill Borrett said: 'The best financial outcome for this council is to get on with this contract.'
The most dramatic moment came as cabinet member Mick Castle described a West Norfolk referendum on the proposed Cory Wheelabrator facility as 'dodgy'.
That was met cries of: 'You liar!' from the public gallery, while Labour Alexandra Kemp had to be told to sit down after standing up and shouting repeatedly at Mr Castle to take his remarks back.
Mr Castle's comments - during which he also referred to North-West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham as 'nice but dim' - were roundly condemned by people after the meeting, the West Norfolk Borough Council (WNBC) leader Nick Daubney calling them 'disgraceful'.
MPs have also reacted to news of the vote.
Mr Bellingham said: 'There were 10 councillors who either didn't vote or who voted for it who were elected on a personal or a party manifesto to stop it. A golden opportunity comes along to stop it, cut our losses to an acceptable level and they fail to grab it.
'The danger now is by signing the revised project plan they're going to remain committed, more costs and liabilities will arise and the secretary of state will turn it down and leave the council liable.'
South-West Norfolk MP Liz Truss said: 'I am obviously very disappointed.
'The incinerator is too large and in the wrong place. It does not command the support of local people and does not represent good value for the taxpayer.'
Read tomorrow's EDP for more reaction.