Campaigners who led the fight against the Lynn incinerator have hailed the power of the community after the controversial project was finally scrapped yesterday.
Dozens of people travelled from West Norfolk to Norwich to see the final act of the long-running saga, forcing officials to provide extra seating on the floor of the chamber to meet the demand.
Speaking after the cabinet meeting where the decision to end the contract was confirmed, KLWIN founder Michael de Whalley said: “Today’s decision is a testament to the power of community.
“One voice of reason can be heard and many voices can affect a change. The residents of West Norfolk are proof of that.”
But a Cory Wheelabrator spokesman said: “We are extremely disappointed by the decisions today, particularly as many years of hard work have gone into this project by the consortium and Norfolk County Council.”
He declined to comment on what would now happen to the planning application for the Saddlebow site.
However, North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham said the vote was “a fantastic result”.
He added: “It’s one of the best days of my political life to see a long campaign being won.
“I would like to pay tribute to the people who have been so active. It really has been a joint united campaign by the people in the west of the county.”
His South West Norfolk counterpart, Elizabeth Truss, added: “Councillors have made the right decision.
“Now is the time to move on to secure a Norfolk wide waste policy that does command the support of local residents, is completely transparent and not concealed behind corporate confidentiality.”
But MPs did not escape criticism during the debate, with many speakers claiming communities secretary Eric Pickles was to blame for the authority’s U-turn, because of his failure to make a decision on the planning application for the plant by mid-January, as had been expected.
Council leader George Nobbs said that was the “real gamechanger”, while the cabinet was subsequently told that the council had not been given any indication of when a planning decision might be reached.
The Cory statement went on: “We, and the industry, have also made it clear to government that planning delays to major infrastructure projects are costly and can jeopardise future investment.
“The Willows project looks set to become yet another example of this delay and uncertainty.”
And Labour cabinet member Mick Castle, who said he was voting to end the contract with “a heavy heart”, accused Norfolk’s MPs of behaving “despicably” over the withdrawal of the £169 million government grant to the project last autumn.
But Mr Bellingham said now was the time to work together to find a sustainable solution to the county’s waste problem.
He argued the council should not simply pay the estimated £30 million compensation due to Cory Wheelabrator, echoing calls during the debate for mediation between the two parties.
He added: “Norfolk MPs will now work together, if asked by the county council, to find ways of mitigating the loss.”