Papers served on Caroline Spelman as West Norfolk council launches legal action over King’s Lynn incinerator
Legal papers were being served on Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman today, as West Norfolk council pressed ahead with its application for a judicial review of her decision to agree funding for a controversial incinerator.
West Norfolk is seeking a judicial review of Ms Spelman's decision to award �91m in Waste Infrastructure Credits (WIC) to Norfolk County Council, to cover the cost of building the 'energy from waste' plant at Saddlebow.
The council's case hinges on an apparent change of heart on Ms Spelman's part. After warning the county council she was concerned at the strength of opposition to the plant last November, the Environment Secretary announced in January that she would award the WICs.
Ms Spelman's department sent information explaining the decision, in response to a pre-action letter from West Norfolk last month.
Today West Norfolk council leader Nick Daubney said the council's lawyers had examined the evidence, and advised that it grounds to seek the judicial review.
'We have not taken this step lightly,' Mr Daubney said. 'We have received the advice of our QC and considered the evidence before us and it remains our contention that the Secretary of State has failed to demonstrate or evidence the reason for her change of mind.'
West Norfolk argues that the 'broad consensus of support' needed to grant WICs does not exist. It says a poll which returned a 65pc turnout of voters showed 93pc were against the incinerator.
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It also argues that Norwich City Council is opposed to any form of incineration in Norfolk and local MPs oppose the Saddlebow proposal.
Guidelines on the awarding of WICs state: '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 strategy which is reflected in the proposed solution.'
Defra's response to the council's pre-action letter warned that West Norfolk did not have any 'arguable grounds' to challenge Ms Spelman's decision.
A judge will now decide the next step in proceedings. He or she could grant permission for a full judicial review, throw out the action or order the parties to attend a preliminary hearing.
West Norfolk councillors last year voted to set aside �200,000 to cover the costs of the legal action.
Last week, the authority formally requested Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to 'call-in' the planning application, so it would be determined by an independent inspector after a public enquiry.