Norfolk MP’s incinerator warning to Eric Pickles

The war of words between Conservatives over the King's Lynn incinerator has taken a fresh twist after a Norfolk MP wrote to communities secretary Eric Pickles claiming the proposals are totally against the government's localism and big society agenda.

Tories are at loggerheads over the issue to build an energy from waste plant on the Saddlebow industrial estate, with Conservative-run County Hall set to award the contract to Anglo-US firm Cory Wheelabrator, while West Norfolk Council, which organised the borough-wide poll where more than 65,000 people voted overwhelmingly against the proposal, is threatening to take legal action if the deal goes ahead amid fears ratepayers could be saddled with a �20m compensation bill.

In a letter to Mr Pickles, North-West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham, who is pressing for a meeting with him and environment secretary Caroline Spelman to convince them to torpedo the plans, said that the county council had 'fallen well short' of its normal high standards for being professional and transparent in its dealings with central government. The row, which comes as the county council's scrutiny committee considers the issue today, centres on two earlier letters from ministers reaffirming the government's support for the way the county council had approached the issue.

The first, from Mr Pickles's deputy Andrew Stunell, to council leader Derrick Murphy, said the proposal was key to the coalition's desire to become the greenest government ever. The second, from waste management minister Lord Henley to South-West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss, stated the reasons why the referendum result would not count as part of the process.

But Mr Bellingham said the county council had not alerted the government to the strength of opposition from residents in the poll and on the borough council, which has set aside �150,000 for a legal challenge. And Lord Henley and his colleagues in Defra had been given the wrong advice on a previous county council consultation stating there was support for the technology.

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'Andrew Stunell was misled, simple as that, maybe not deliberately, but he replied without having the full facts at hand,' he said. 'It's a massive issue which has gone beyond the technological details, but one that goes to the heart of the localism agenda.'

Derrick Murphy, leader of Norfolk County Council, said the MP had failed to provide any evidence that ministers were upset by the way the county council had acted.

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