Should Secretary of State decide King’s Lynn incinerator plan, asks new report

PUBLISHED: 13:21 16 July 2011 | UPDATED: 14:23 16 July 2011

The proposed site of the incinerator at Saddlebow, near King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt.

The proposed site of the incinerator at Saddlebow, near King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt.

Archant © 2011

A new report to councillors in West Norfolk says the decision over the controversial incinerator plan should be made by the Secretary of State, not the county council, as the war of words continues.

The increasingly bitter political debate has sparked a legal challenge and calls for an external inquiry into the way decisions were arrived at by Norfolk County Council’s ruling Tory group.

Now a report to West Norfolk councillors is calling for the decision over the incinerator to be taken out of the hands of the county council.

“There are concerns over the ability of the county council to deal objectively with this application,” the report to West Norfolk’s development control board states.

“Norfolk County Council is the PFI-partner to Cory Wheelabrator, which has lodged the application. If the application is not passed, Norfolk County Council will be liable to pay a £20.3m penalty to Cory Wheelabrator.

Burning Issue - the arguments in favour

The supporting statement for the incinerator planning application is included in full in West Norfolk council’s report.

It explains that Norfolk currently relies heavily on landfill, with 416,000 tonnes of waste buried in 2008/09, adding: “This situation is no longer economically or environmentally sustainable.”

Councils have targets for reducing landfill, and taxes levied on this means of waste disposal are increasing.

The application argues alternatives are needed. It says energy from waste techonolgy [incineration] offers a means of diverting waste from landfill and treating it, without compromosing Norfolk’s high levels of recycling.

The planning document says the incinerator would produce energy and offer “good value for money for the people of Norfolk”.

It states the incinerator would have a throughput of approximately 268,000 tonnes of waste a year, which will generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 36,000 homes.

It adds: “The Proposal will accept residual Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) from Norfolk and Commercial and Industrial (C&I) waste arising from local businesses, some of which will come from neighbouring authority areas, given King’s Lynn’s location close to the county boundary.

“An Incinerator Bottom Ash (IBA) Recycling Area will recover around 5,000 tonnes of metals per year from the bottom ash produced by the EfW process and will enable the remaining bottom ash (around 55,000 tonnes per year) to be recycled for use in the construction industry.

“Both aspects promote sustainability by reducing the need for virgin raw materials and help boost recycling levels in Norfolk.”

The statement says planning permission to build the incinerator will need to be obtained from Norfolk County Council, while the Environment Agency will be responsible for issuing an environmental permit allowing it to operate.

“The Proposal Site has easy access from the A47 and the strategic highway network, which provides ready accessibility to the existing network of waste transfer stations throughout the County and connections to the neighbouring areas,” the statement says.

“The Proposal will be a generator of low carbon energy, a significant proportion of which will be classed as renewable and will deliver savings in greenhouse gas emissions from the commencement of its operation.

“The planning application demonstrates that there is an overwhelming need for the proposal to complement existing and future recycling and composting initiatives within the county, as part of an integrated waste management system.”

The document states that with “mitigation measures”, there will be “no likely significant environmental


It concludes: “The proposal will make a significant contribution to the delivery of sustainable waste

management in Norfolk and in turn the spatial vision and key strategic objectives of the emerging Norfolk Waste Core Strategy.

“The Government places importance in the provision of sufficient opportunities for new waste management facilities of the right type, in the right place and the right time. The proposal implements these objectives”.

“The risk of its decision being tainted by the appearance of bias has only been heightened by the recent disclosure

that Conservative county councillors met prior to the county council’s March 7 cabinet meeting to determine how, en bloc, they would vote on the award of the PFI

contract to Cory Wheelabrator. They did vote to award it to Cory Wheelabrator.

“Unless called-in by the Secretary of State, the matter will be determined by a committee of Norfolk County councillors.

“Compared with a local public inquiry, that is not a forum in which the planning merits of the application can be fully tested and in which interested parties can make substantial and detailed contributions.

“Given these concerns, representations have been made to the Secretary of State to call the application in for his determination.”

Council leader Nick Daubney has also requested a meeting

with Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman, to “set the record straight”.

Leaked minutes of a meeting of the county council’s Conservative group have sparked calls for an independent enquiry.

The new report also sets out the council’s objections to the incinerator in detail. They include claims that the incinerator proposal is contrary to government policies, would discourage investment in the area, would be built in an area at high risk of flooding and damage important wildlife habitats.

The lengthy report begins by setting out the rationale behind the incinerator proposal, as detailed in the supporting planning statement lodged with the planning application.

These are summarised on the right. You can also follow the links to read the development control board report in full, or explore the full planning application and supporing statements on Norfolk County Council’s website.

The development control board report claims the incinerator fails to meet national policy and regulation, which requires that waste is reduced, reused or recycled prior to recovery.

“The size of the incinerator fails to meet sustainability criteria due to its location on the extreme west of the county and therefore does not support the proximity principle of dealing with waste where it arises,” it adds.

“The scale and the location of the facility will also draw in waste from across the borders of the county and squeeze out recycling and other more sustainable forms of waste treatment in neighbouring counties who plan to deal with their own waste.”

The report states if built, the incinerator would harm future investment in West Norfolk, particularly on the part of the food industry.

It adds: “Although difficult to quantify at the moment because of lack of evidence supplied with the application, the loss of potential employment resulting from the negative perceptions associated with the proposed development could be far greater than the small employment benefits provided by it.”

The report also states the proposed development is in an area at “high risk of flooding” and deposits would pose the risk of acidifcation to Roydon Common - a nature reserve and SSSI near King’s Lynn.

Councillors on the development control board - formerly the planning committee - are set to meet on Monday, July 25, to discuss the report. The meeting, which begins at 10am, is being held at King’s Lynn Corn Exchange.

If agreed, the council’s comments will be forwarded to the county council as part of the planning process, which has also seen the county council invite parish councils across Norfolk to submit their comments.

In a statement, Norfolk County Council said: “We welcome all responses to the Willows planning application. All opinions and comments received will be considered as part of the county council’s standard planning procedures.

“There is still time for people to have their say as the official consultation runs until Wednesday, August 3.”

Follow the links above to view and comment on the application online.

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