King’s Lynn incinerator meeting shelved for a week

A meeting to scrutinise a controversial decision to press ahead with plans for an incinerator on the edge of King's Lynn was today shelved for a week amid concerns that the public had not been given enough time to view a council report on the issue.

Members of Norfolk County Council's scrutiny committee were to discuss three separate call-ins of the cabinet decision to award the contract for a energy from waste plant on the Saddlebow industrial estate to Anglo-US firm Cory Wheelabrator.

More than 50 people had packed the public gallery for the meeting, which was switched the main council chamber because of the high level of interest.

Feelings are running high over the ruling cabinet's decision to press ahead with the contract, despite a referendum held by West Norfolk council showing that 65,000 people were against the proposal.

And in a further twist, today's meeting was adjourned until next week after councillors complained that the public, including campaigners invited to speak as witnesses had not been given access to a council report to be considered by the committee until yesterday, instead of the usual five day notice period.

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Lib Dem councillor Mervyn Scutter who proposed the adjournment, said he was concerned that while councillors had received their papers last week they had only been made available to the public and witnesses invited to speak in the last 24 hours.

'It's absolutely essential that this committee makes the right decision based upon the information available,' he said. 'People already feel their democratic expressions have been ignored, if we aren't careful, we are saying 'not only will your views made during the referendum be ignored, but the people who might be able to give us useful information are going to be ignored. That really would be a bad day for Norfolk.'

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Chris Skinner, the council's solicitor, told the committee that while the rules state that reports should ideally be available five days in advance of meetings, the session could still go ahead if councillors and the public had all received the report at the same time.

But with vote to adjourn tied at 8 votes each with one abstention, Green councillor Phil Hardy, used the chairman's casting vote to secure the delay.

Nick Daubney, leader of West Norfolk Council, who had turned up to the meeting, said afterwards that he was pleased with the committee's decision.

'I think the procedure is what we have come to expect, given my recent experience of county council meetings,' Mr Daubney said. 'Scrutiny is an absolutely essential part of the democratic process. The strength of people's opinion in our poll was ignored and it would have been even more of a travesty if this meeting had been allowed to take place.'

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