Two members of West Norfolk Council’s ruling Conservative group have resigned in a row over a waste contract they claim endorses incineration.
West Winch councillor Paul Foster announced his decision in an email to party colleagues ahead of the council meeting at Lynn’s town hall on Thursday.
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 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 north 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 by councillors, 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.
Mr Foster said in his email: “I cannot, as a matter of principle and conscience, vote to allow waste to be unnecessarily burnt in a neighbouring county.”
During the meeting, he also questioned leader Nick Daubney about an extract of the council’s submissions to the public inquiry on the Lynn incinerator, which suggested the authority accepted a potential need for such a facility – an idea he claimed had not been discussed by members.
But Mr Daubney said: “The case we made to the inquiry was very, very powerful and I don’t think the 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 the plans on people living near the plant in South Ferriby, near Scunthorpe, having spent hundreds of thousands of pounds defending the same idea at the inquiry.
He added: “If we approve this, 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 Labour opposition also tabled an amendment, which was defeated, calling for a guarantee 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.
And they are also worried the deal could allow some waste to be diverted to the Lynn incinerator if it is built.
“We all want more recycling, but not at the avoidable cost of more waste providing more fuel for incineration,” he said.
“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, 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.”