Too early to predict cost of Norfolk incinerator case, say council leaders

County council bosses have said it is too early to say how much it will cost the authority to prepare for next year's public inquiry into plans for a Norfolk incinerator.

Norfolk County Council voted to give planning permission for the plant at Saddlebow, King's Lynn, in June, but communities secretary Eric Pickles's office announced the decision was being called in, meaning there will be a full public inquiry.

That inquiry will take place in King's Lynn in January, but at a meeting of the county council this week questions were asked about what the authority has budgeted to put its case at that inquiry.

Graham Plant, cabinet member for planning and transportation, said: 'The council does not yet have enough information to estimate for budget purposes the overall cost to the council of the public inquiry, but hopes to be in a position to do so following the pre-inquiry meeting on November 28 and agreement of common ground between the parties.' He added that Neil Cameron QC had been engaged 'for legal matters', while professional advisors may also be 'engaged on technical matters'.

Norfolk County Council awarded the contract to build and operate the incinerator last year to Anglo-American consortium Cory Wheelabrator.

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It said the plant was needed to prevent the county's waste having to go to landfill, which would save taxpayers millions of pounds a year.

But campaigners claim there are health risks and there are cheaper and more environmentally-friendly methods of recycling our waste. More than 65,000 people voted against the plant in a poll organised by West Norfolk council.

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West Norfolk Council last month agreed to sign a contract with a company called Material Works which will turn West Norfolk's waste into an inert plastic used in the building industry instead.

Campaigners have questioned why Norfolk County Council cannot go down that road, rather than the incineration route.

But Bill Borrett, cabinet member for environment and waste, said the claims by Duratrust, the company behind Material Works, were unproven.

He said: 'There are still many key questions to be answered about this scheme and I look forward to receiving the hard facts - information that we have been calling for since the idea was first suggested.'

Robert Billson, managing director of Material Works, said the process had been explained in detail at three locations in West Norfolk at public consultations in recent months.

He added: 'The response from those who came to see the public consultation was overwhelmingly positive and we were very pleased so many people took the trouble to come and see what we are proposing.

'As part of the remit of Material Works, we intend to create a demonstration plant, which will be available to display the potential of the processes in a practical manner.'

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