King’s Lynn or nowhere for Norfolk County Council’s near-£600m incinerator
- Credit: IAN BURT
An incinerator will not be built elsewhere in Norfolk if near-£600m proposals for King's Lynn are rejected, it has emerged.
And if the Norfolk County Council project does not go ahead, back-up options could include transporting rubbish thrown out by Norfolk residents to burners or waste treatment facilities elsewhere in the country.
Opponents of the incinerator have suggested Costessey, Snetterton and Norwich should be considered as appropriate sites rather than the authority's preferred location at Saddlebow.
But it is understood county council leader Bill Borrett has told members of his Conservative group the authority has no plans for any other sites.
He added there is no chance the proposal from contractor Cory Wheelabrator would continue on another site.
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A public inquiry is ongoing into plans to burn at least 170,000 tonnes a year to generate electricity and prevent waste going to landfill.
Mr Borrett yesterday said he remains confident the King's Lynn project remains the best option and has been carried out properly.
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He told the EDP: 'If the inspector decides there are issues around the project I still think the idea it will go elsewhere in Norfolk is not likely.'
But he added: 'The particular elements means it's going to be at King's Lynn or it's not going to happen. There are issues over delivering an alternative site.'
West Norfolk Council's QC Natalie Lieven had told the inquiry while it is accepted there are benefits from the incinerator, the King's Lynn site is not suitable to deliver them.
She said: 'The reality is that the application site is one of a number of appropriate sites in the county, others being in Costessey, Snetterton and Norwich.'
But Mr Borrett said reasons why the King's Lynn site had been favoured included the fact it is owned by the council, they judged it to be in the right location to join the road network, and the land could be used for waste purposes.
The council could be hit with a bill of up to £20m if it breaks its contract with Cory Wheelabrator, the Anglo-US consortium chosen to build the plant.
If the planning inspectorate refuses the first proposal, Mr Borrett said it was likely the reasons why would be studied before the next steps were taken. The council can request a second incinerator proposal be put forward by Cory.
Mr Borrett said if the burner plan failed there was no like-for-like back-up but a mix of measures could be taken.
He said: 'It's a huge project this [incinerator] and what you can't do is run two side-by-side, can you? You can't say this is the main project and this is a huge back-up project that we will run and spend millions of pounds on at the same time.
'Given the scale of the alternative plans, they are smaller and around more patching the problem rather than solving the problem completely.
'Norfolk produces 225,000 tonnes of residual waste that doesn't get recycled. All the time we are trying to reduce that by increasing recycling. At the moment we do need a solution.
'As other facilities become available it might come to the point that landfill tax is going up, it might be marginally cheaper to send waste quite long distances to go to other incinerators or waste treatment facilities of smaller size. It will still not be as cheap as doing it in Norfolk but it's cheaper than landfill.'
Anti-incinerator campaigners believe big increases to Norfolk's 45.3pc recycling rate could be achieved without the need for an incinerator. They are also concerned about the possible impact of a burner in the Lynn area.
Mike Knights, of King's Lynn Without Incineration (KLWIN), said it was not too late for the council to drop the idea and consider other ways of treating waste.
He said: 'Basically there are things they could be doing quite readily that would not upset anybody.
'Bill Borrett's position has not really changed. He wants an incinerator. The county council has wanted one come what may, regardless of how expensive it is, regardless of what's the best solution and they set their mind on having an incinerator at all costs.
'How they arrived at that decision, they didn't use a very reliable process to get where they are, I believe.'
Mr Knights said he believed a precedent would be set if approval is given to the King's Lynn site.
He said: 'With so many good reasons why this incinerator should not be built, if we do not stop this one at King's Lynn it's hard to see what anyone else could ever do to stop another proposal anywhere else in Norfolk any time in the future.'