King’s Lynn incinerator inquiry halted after two years because of ‘lack of co-operation’

Willows Business Park Saddlebow, King's Lynn

Land in the foreground is the proposed site for the incinerator ENGANL00120131018142016
Willows Business Park Saddlebow, King's Lynn Land in the foreground is the proposed site for the incinerator ENGANL00120131018142016

An inquiry into the failure of the Lynn incinerator contract may never be completed because the investigator says he cannot force people to give evidence.

Norfolk County Council chiefs have suggested it would be a “waste of money” to continue the probe, more than two years after it was first ordered.

But campaigners and politicians who fought the proposal say that is unacceptable and lessons should still be learned.

Following the decision to cancel the county council’s contract with Cory Wheelabrator in April 2014, former councillor Stephen Revell was appointed to conduct an inquiry into the council’s handling of the scheme.

The decision meant the council was forced to pay £34 million in compensation to the developer.

But, to date, no report has ever been published.

And, in a letter to current council leader Cliff Jordan, Mr Revell said: “Despite my best efforts, I have come to the conclusion that it will not be possible to produce a report based on the evidence that I have been able to obtain.

“The facts of the matter are that my investigation had no powers to require people to give evidence.

“Some key people either did not respond or did not agree to be interviewed, which means that any report would be based on incomplete and potentially biased evidence.

“The passage of time has further complicated the situation as people’s recollections and evidence become less reliable. In these circumstances, I have come to the view that I am communicating to you now.”

He added: “I recognise the depth of feeling in the community about this project and I am sorry that it has not been possible to produce a more satisfactory outcome.”

In subsequent emails, Mr Jordan said Mr Revell had not charged the authority for his time in pursuing the inquiry.

And, in a statement, he added: “There is no point in flogging a dead horse at the taxpayer’s expense.

“I didn’t set up this report, but nothing has happened in two years and I see no point in spending taxpayers’ money to make no further progress.

“We are not going to get back the money spent winding up the incinerator project and there will be no incinerator on my watch.

“We now need to get on with things and sort out how we are going to deal with our rubbish in the future. Let’s move on.”

But North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham said he did not believe a cost argument should be used to halt the inquiry and urged the county council to co-operate.

He said: “I find that completely unacceptable.

“I don’t know if lessons can be learned but, if they can, my goodness they should be.”

Dersingham division councillor John Dobson, a long-time critic of the scheme who is currently of no political alignment, has offered to take over the investigation.

And Michael de Whalley, founder of King’s Lynn Without Incineration (KLWIN), described Mr Revell’s admission as “hugely disappointing.”

He said: “The importance of the review is to stop Norfolk County Council making the same mistakes again. £34 million was lost through incompetence.”