West Norfolk Council mounts legal challenge over incinerator plan funding

WEST Norfolk Council is to press ahead with its legal challenge against the decision to award a multi-million pound grant to the Lynn incinerator project, it has been confirmed.

Legal papers were today served at the High Court in support of the authority’s application for a judicial review of environment secretary Caroline Spelman’s decision to give £91 million to the scheme.

Council leader Nick Daubney said their lawyers had advised them they had an arguable case after spending the past three weeks studying documents released by Defra.

He added: “This council I lead has a responsibility to stand up for its local electorate.”

The borough council claims the criteria for Ms Spelman to award the waste infrastructure credits for the incinerator had not been met when she made the decision to grant the cash in January.

They argue that there is neither a “broad consensus” of support for the project now, nor was there one when the decision was made.

The authority also claims that the incinerator is not consistent with the county’s waste strategy, which they say is “technology neutral” and cannot prove support for the plant.

And they allege that the issues raised by the secretary of state when she called for additional evidence to support the grant award last November have still not been addressed.

Defra, who will face the action when it does come to court, have repeatedly insisted that the award of credits did meet their criteria.

The government department was asked to disclose the evidence which persuaded the minister to award the grant in a pre-action protocol letter from the borough council in February.

And a spokesman said: “The Secretary of State was satisfied that the department’s criteria have been met and has approved Norfolk County Council’s application for Waste Infrastructure Credits. As this is now subject to a possible legal challenge it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

But Mr Daubney said: “We believe that to grant public money to finance such an ill-conceived project, which is clearly unwanted by the very people who will end up paying for it, is just wrong.”

Cory Wheelabrator, the consortium hoping to build the plant, have been named as interested parties in the action together with Norfolk County Council and the county’s other district authorities. Legal papers have also been served on them.

The next stage will be for the judge to decide whether to grant or refuse the application or order an oral hearing to take place – as happened in the legal challenge brought by anti-incinerator campaigner Michael de Whalley last December.