Norfolk County Council leader: I’ll keep championing King’s Lynn incinerator
The leader of Norfolk County Council has pledged to keep fighting to secure the �169m government grant for the King's Lynn incinerator.
The council's hopes of building the plant at Saddlebow were dealt a blow last week when environment secretary Caroline Spelman wrote to County Hall leader Derrick Murphy informing him she was withholding the Private Finance Credits for the scheme.
She said she was concerned at the strength of local opposition to the scheme, with more than 65,000 having voted against the scheme in a poll organised by West Norfolk Council, and asked for the council to provide 'additional evidence' to show the council's waste strategy has 'a broad consensus'.
The county council has already stated it plans to meet Ms Spelman's officials at the Department for Food and Regional Affairs to discuss the issue, but at a meeting of Norfolk County Council's cabinet yesterday, Mr Murphy reiterated that the council was completely behind the scheme.
He said: 'I will state from the outset the first priority for this authority has always been to deal with the county's residual waste in a safe and sustainable manner that delivers best value for money and avoids taxpayers having to spend hard cash meeting huge landfill charges.'
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Mr Murphy, who represents the Freebridge Lynn division, said he was 'probably more aware' of the local opposition and concern than anyone else.
But he said he would 'continue to champion' the proposal because the business case was 'very sound indeed' and would help Norfolk taxpayers avoid landfill costs and deal sustainably with household waste.
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He added: 'If local popularity or the 'volume' of opposition is now to be a new test all such essential infrastructure projects have to pass, I fear for the delivery of infrastructure policy priorities absolutely essential to the re-booting of this country's economy - for jobs, skills, construction or housing for example.
'The consternation the Secretary of State's letter has generated across local government and industry is evidence that others share our concern and I welcome the support we have received from a variety of sources.'
He said the council had previously been advised by DEFRA the information the council had supplied to show there was a consensus for the waste strategy was sufficient.
He said: 'The Secretary of State seeks further assurance. We will further assure her. And I can assure you we will fight for the government grant Norfolk is entitled to. We are never afraid to speak up for the interests of our council taxpayers as a whole.'
But Tim East, Liberal Democrat spokesman for environment, roads, transport and waste, said it was time for the council to ditch what he called a 'madcap scheme' and look at alternatives to incineration.
He said: 'They should stop pursuing something which is counter-productive for the ratepayers of Norfolk. They should stop it and go back to look at alternative options, rather than digging themselves even further into a hole.
'They can still go back before the landfill directives come in and procure alternatives, which might not be a single plant, but maybe a multiplicity of different waste methods across the county.
'This whole issue has been a chapter of calamities by the ruling Conservative administration.'