Norfolk MPs to meet with Minister over King’s Lynn incinerator proposals

Elizabeth Truss and Henry Bellingham to lobby Secretary of State

Two Norfolk MPs are to meet with Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman in a bid to halt Government cash going towards a controversial incinerator planned for the outskirts of King's Lynn.

Elizabeth Truss and Henry Bellingham, representing South West and North West Norfolk respectively, are hoping to persuade the Secretary of State that the overwhelming no-vote in a poll on the incinerator issue should mean �169 million of Private Finance Initiative (PFI) credits is not made available.

The credits have been awarded to Norfolk County Council by the Government to help pay for the energy from waste plant which is proposed for the Willows industrial estate.

But both MPs claim Government guidelines on the allocation of such funds includes a 'broad consensus' of both public support and support among other local authorities.

A poll run by West Norfolk council, itself against the incinerator, showed 65,000 residents, 93 pc of those who voted, in the borough did not want it built.

Guidelines on criteria for securing waste PFI credits, issued by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) say: 'Proposals should demonstrate that other relevant authorities, the public, and interested parties have been consulted and that there is a broad consensus supporting a recognised long term waste management stragegy which is reflected in the proposed solution.'

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Ms Spelman,the Secretary of State at Defra, will be meeting the two MPs on May 16.

'I will ensure that the Secretary of State understands exactly what the people of South West Norfolk want. I have repeatedly advocated the creation of a pan-Norfolk waste operation with much higher recycling rates as an alternative method of saving money,' said Miss Truss.

Both she and Mr Bellingham say the refusal of Norfolk County Council to take the views of West Norfolk residents into account flies in the face of the government's own flagship policy of localism.

'Sixty five thousand residents voted against an incinerator in West Norfolk and these views need to be respected,' said Miss Truss.

'This is a crucial meeting because up until now Defra has had a lot of one-sided propaganda from the county council,' said Mr Bellingham.

He added that he would do everything in his power to get the scheme stopped.

The whole issue of PFI funding was thrown into the spotlight last week when the National Audit Office suggested it was not always the best, or most cost-effective, way forward in the provision of public services.

In a report reviewing the system it said there was no evidence to suggest PFI schemes provided better, or worse, value for tax-payers.

But it said PFI schemes should be more focussed on specific areas - one of which was waste management.

Anti-incinerator campaigner Dr Chris Edwards, a senior fellow in the School of International Development at the University of East Anglia, said the PFI contract with Anglo-American company Cory Wheelabrator to incinerate waste would be more expensive for everyone.

He said the bill would top �600m over 25 years because of a massive reduction in the landfill tax going to central Government along with the �169m it was giving to the project.

'It is not going to offer value for money,' he said.

But Norfolk County Council, which is backing the plan, claims there will be long-term cost benefits and has appointed Corey Wheelabrator as its preferred contractor to carry out the project.

Council leader Derrick Murphy earlier said the scheme represented 'an extraordinarily good deal for Norfolk council tax payers.'

He added that he did not know why the two MPs were seeing the Secretary of State now, as the proposals had been known about since 2008.

'I see it as to MPs who have constituents who have concerns and as diligent MPs, they are going to speak to the Secretary of State on the matter,' he said.