No need to rush a decision on Norfolk incinerator, say the plant’s opponents

Campaigners against the incinerator have responded to a plea by leaders at Norfolk County Council for a decision on the burner - by urging the man in whose hands the plant's fate rests to take his time.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles had been due to make a decision on the King's Lynn incinerator on January 14, but two months on and he has yet to make an announcement.

The planning application for the burner at Saddlebow was 'called in' by the government in August 2012 after a record number of people wrote in.

An inquiry was held last spring and the report of the inspector who headed the probe reached Mr Pickles' desk in the autumn. A decision had been expected on or before January 14.

County council leader George Nobbs, Labour, his Liberal Democrat deputy James Joyce and Conservative Bev Spratt, the chairman of the council's environment, waste, transport and development overview and scrutiny panel, had written to Mr Pickles calling for him to announce his decision.The letter states: 'It seems wholly unreasonable to withhold your decision, whatever that decision may be, in the knowledge that the county council as a direct result is prejudiced financially by the delay.'

But councillors who are against the incinerator have written a letter of their own to Mr Pickles, saying that Mr Nobbs dies not speak for them.

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That letter, signed by Conservative John Dobson, UKIP group leader Toby Coke, Liberal Democrat Tim East, Green councillor Andrew Boswell and independents Alexandra Kemp and Richard Bird, states that they do not agree that is is 'wholly unreasonable' for the decision to be withheld, or that the county council is prejudiced financially by the delay.

They state: 'The planning application for the only other incinerator which Cory Wheelabrator has built in this country (at Bexley) was equally complex and took substantially longer to resolve (a total of 12 years), so no one can complain that the time being taken now by you and your staff to ensure the correct decision is anything other than the norm.'

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They say the £30m penalty figure, which they describe as 'inflated' would be 'dwarfed' by the savings to be made by choosing an alternative technology.

They add that, with a further vote on whether to press ahead with the scheme due next month, the delay 'offers the council a further vote next month to come out of this now widely and publicly discredited contract altogether, with massive net savings, not costs, all of which will restore faith in the county council's processes.'

Meanwhile, the county council's environment, transport and development overview and scrutiny panel agreed, on the casting vote of chairman Mr Spratt, to send a delegation to visit Mr Pickles asking him to make a decision.

The committee agreed to send Mr Spratt and his vice-chairman Mr Boswell on that trip, although Green councillor Mr Boswell, a long-standing opponent of the incinerator said, should the meeting go ahead, he would tell Mr Pickles his view that the burner should not go ahead.

Against that backdrop, a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government, said: 'A decision will be made by ministers in due course. At present, ministers are carefully considering all the evidence and detailed representations from a wide range of parties, following the receipt of the planning inspector's report.'

• What's your view on the incinerator saga? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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