County councillors could get a second chance to axe the proposed Lynn incinerator this spring, critics have claimed.
Opponents say Norfolk County Council will have to review the project again in April, because of an expected rise in the cost of halting it after that point.
Officials have admitted the issue will need to be examined if the government has not decided if the project should go ahead by then, but insist it is too early to say whether councillors would get a second vote to determine the plant’s fate.
The issue emerged after a cabinet scrutiny meeting on Tuesday, in which critics called for the decision to set aside millions of pounds to help meet the cost of the plant not being given planning consent to be reviewed.
Although the committee rejected that suggestion, it did call for the council’s leader, George Nobbs, and acting managing director, Anne Gibson, to look at the issue before the budget for the coming financial year is finalised next week.
Central to the issue is officers’ latest warning that the council would have to pay a further £5 million in compensation to contractors Cory Wheelabrator, taking the total bill to an estimated £31 million, if planning permission is not secured by the beginning of May.
Although the council’s leadership maintains the figure was only an estimate, objectors allege that councillors were not told the bill could rise again before they voted narrowly to continue with the project last October, a claim that senior figures have denied.
A council spokesman said a fresh review would not be needed if communities secretary Eric Pickles made a prompt decision on the planning application for the plant.
But he added: “If things continue to be undecided it may be that a further vote is required, depending on what extra costs, if any, are involved. It’s impossible to say at this stage.
However, Labour councillor Alexandra Kemp, whose Clenchwarton and Lynn South division includes the planned incinerator site, said Tuesday’s meeting was “a step in the right direction” towards reversing the October decision.
She said she regarded that vote as being invalid because it was clear that councillors had not been given the full picture.
Of the prospect of a fresh review, she said: “It’s another chance for West Norfolk and a chance for the county to think very carefully about the future. We already need a Plan B.”