Councillors claim power to veto King’s Lynn incinerator letters

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A group of county councillors will be able to block future correspondence relating to the Lynn incinerator, following a row over a letter which appeared to back the project.

The assurance was made in response to a letter from Norfolk County Council planning manager Nick Johnson, which claimed the termination of the contract for the Saddlebow scheme should not determine the fate of the planning application.

The document, first reported in the Lynn News earlier this month, sparked a furious reaction from critics of the Saddlebow proposal, who accused officials of acting against the will of elected councillors.

But Toby Coke, the chairman of the county council’s environment, transport and development committee, insisted there is no plot to resurrect the project.

At the committee’s first meeting on Friday, Mr Coke revealed that all future letters relating to the incinerator or its site will have to go before him and the committee’s group spokesmen before they are sent.

He later confirmed that the group would be able to stop documents with content they did not approve of from being sent out.

In a prepared statement, which was endorsed by committee members, Mr Coke pointed out that Mr Johnson’s letter, sent to the Department for Communities and Local Government, which will determine if the plan should go ahead or not, was sent in response to other submissions made by parties who oppose the development.

But he added: “The content of the letters has, understandably, caused considerable anxiety in King’s Lynn and the west of Norfolk.

“Given the history of this planning application it would be politically naive to think a letter like this would not raise significant concerns in the local community.

“The content is such that I firmly believe that it was an error of judgement to send this letter.”

Speaking to the Lynn News yesterday, Mr Coke said that neither he, nor senior environmental officers at County Hall, had even been aware of Mr Johnson’s letter until it was made public.

However, he maintained that it would be councillors, not officers, who decide what happens to the disputed site in the future.

Last month, the authority decided any move to dispose of the land before a new county waste strategy is drawn up would require full council approval.

The move disappointed West Norfolk Council chiefs, who have been lobbying for the site to be sold to them quickly in order to stop an incinerator ever being built there.

But Mr Coke insisted that Cory Wheelabrator, the consortium which is still seeking planning permission for the incinerator, does not have any contractual rights over the lands.

And he suggested that the county could seek to impose its own rules on a future sale.

He said: “Any such sale could, if full council is so minded, contain a suitable covenant to prevent the land from being used for incineration.”