King’s Lynn incinerator vote may go elsewhere

Ministers could be asked to make a final decision on whether to allow the building of a controversial incinerator scheme in West Norfolk.

Norfolk County Council has selected Anglo-American firm Cory Wheelabrator as its preferred bidder to build the plant, near King's Lynn, which would be capable of treating 170,000 tonnes of black bin waste and a further 90,000 tonnes of commercial waste.

But revelations that the council could be left with a �20.5m compensation bill if members reject the planning application for the �169m scheme has raised questions about the integrity of the process.

Questions have also been raised about the viability of the scheme after it emerged that a legal covenant exists on the site preventing the land being used for the commercial production of electricity – a key plank of the proposed energy from waste plan. A similar covenant derailed a previous bid for an incinerator in Costessey on the edge of Norwich.

Yesterday members of the council's scrutiny committee, which had been put off calling the decision in because of the �600,000 costs of a delay, asked the cabinet to consider approaching the government to see if ministers could be asked to make the planning decision instead, after a suggestion from Labour councillor George Nobbs.

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'I'm agnostic about the merits of the incinerator, but I am concerned that to the public this doesn't look right,' Mr Nobbs said.

'I am amazed at how whiter than white we are, but I'm afraid that I can't remove that fact from my mind. What's important to the public is that the planning process is absolutely fair.'

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Lib Dem councillor Tim East queried whether waste would have to be imported from other parts of the country as increased recycling rates would mean the plant would not have enough waste to treat, and he was also sceptical about the public consultation process, part of which would be carried out by Cory Wheelabrator. Green councillor Richard Bearman also asked why there would be a five-year wait before any reduction in carbon emissions at the site took place.

But Tory councillors Jim Shrimplin and Tony Adams took umbrage at the suggestion that members of the planning committee could be compromised by the compensation deal.

Mr Adams said: 'I have never allowed any other consideration other than planning matters to determine my decision. I would take it as a personal slur if anybody suggested I might be influenced by any other matter.'

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