Two members of West Norfolk Council’s ruling Conservative group resigned last night in a row over a new recycling contract which they claim endorses incineration.
West Winch councillor Paul Foster announced his intention to quit in an email to party colleagues ahead of the council meeting at Lynn’s town hall.
And Michael Pitcher, who represents the Grimston ward, followed suit during the meeting, crossing the floor of the chamber to sit alongside opposition members.
Both men, who will now serve as independents, are unhappy with a proposed new county-wide recycling contract, which is due to come into force next spring and would send some waste which cannot be recycled to a cement kiln in northern Lincolnshire.
Council chiefs say the volume affected would be less than 1,000 tonnes per year, while the new deal, which extends the types of waste which can be recycled in people’s homes to include more plastics and glass, would mean up to 30,000 tonnes more waste across the county would be re-used.
Although the deal was approved by 35 votes to five, critics argue the amount being incinerated could be much higher and insist the authority should not consider the process at all, because of its stance against the controversial Lynn incinerator scheme.
In his email, Mr Foster said: “I cannot, as a matter of principle and conscience, vote to allow waste to be unnecessarily burnt in a neighbouring county.
“The question I have asked myself is would the council accept the building of a plant in West Norfolk to burn the waste left over from the recycling centre. I personally would not. It seems, however, the leader would.”
During the meeting, Mr Foster also questioned council leader Nick Daubney about an extract of the council’s submissions to the public inquiry on the Lynn incinerator project, which suggested the council accepted there may be a need for such a facility in the county - an idea that he claimed had not been discussed by the council.
But Mr Daubney said: “The case we made to the inquiry was very, very powerful and I don’t think the local public are in any doubt as to my stance on the incinerator. I’ve done this job honestly and openly and this council has backed me at every stage.”
Mr Pitcher then said he was surprised the council’s leadership had failed to consider the impact of their plans on people living near the plant in South Ferriby, near Scunthorpe, having spent hundreds of thousands of pounds defending the idea in the public inquiry against the Lynn incinerator.
He added: “If we approve this bill, we are basically turning it on its head. I’m afraid I may have to do what councillor Foster has done.” He then switched sides.
The opposition Labour group also tabled an amendment, which was defeated, calling for a guarantee that none of the borough’s waste would be burnt.
Group leader Jim Moriarty said he feared the borough had been sold short by agreeing a contract containing an element of incineration.
They fear the contract could allow for some waste to be diverted to the Lynn incinerator if it is built.
He said: “We all want more recycling but not at the avoidable cost of more waste going towards avoidable incineration.
“We all remain united against the incinerator in King’s Lynn. We are stronger together, but I would argue we are stronger still if we oppose incineration of any of our waste.”
But Alistair Beales, the council’s cabinet member for regeneration, argued that a vote against the contract was a vote for incineration.
He said: “It’s a nonsense to say this is about anything other than recycling. I would encourage an alternative use to a cement kiln but I take a pragmatic view and the net effect is huge. If you’re against incineration you should vote for this.”