The fate of the controversial Lynn incinerator remains in the balance tonight, Monday January 13, after the Government admitted it could not yet decide whether to allow the scheme to go ahead.
County council chiefs have warned any delay to the decision on the Saddlebow scheme will leave them facing immediate difficulties in setting budgets for the coming year.
But opponents claim the plan is now untenable and the authority should focus on alternative solutions.
And news of the delay was confirmed on the same day that the company behind a rival waste scheme, which is backed by West Norfolk Council, announced it had secured £100 million of funding for a plant in the borough.
Officials say their scheme will create 200 jobs and work could start this summer, if planning permission is granted.
A decision on whether the incinerator should be given planning permission had been expected from the Department for Communities and Local Government by tomorrow.
But a spokesman told the Lynn News that the application was still being considered, adding: “As soon as a decision is made, it will be published.”
No official timescale has been put on when the ruling might now be made, though it is thought the process could last for several more months.
And Norfolk County Council says the lack of a decision will give them major problems in setting their budget for the coming year over the next few weeks.
In a letter released today, leader George Nobbs told communities secretary Eric Pickles that the authority faces a bill of between £26 million and £31 million in compensation if planning consent is not granted.
He added: “A delay means that all options for covering that risk in the coming budget will have to come back onto the table. This is hugely difficult for the council and our residents. I really hope you will feel in a position to make your decision soon.”
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Cory Wheelabrator, the consortium that hopes to build and operate the plant, described the delay as “disappointing” and urged ministers to make a decision soon.
But Michael de Whalley, of the King’s Lynn Without Incineration (KLWIN) campaign group said the scheme was now “lethally bogged down.”
He added: “Now is the time for officers and Cabinet members at County Hall to come out and start working with the community towards other more responsible and socially acceptable solutions. We must get on and solve our waste problem now.”
North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham said he felt the delay showed the strength of the case which was made against the plant during the public inquiry held in Lynn last year.
He said he would be using the delay to make the case for using alternative plants in Suffolk and Holland as short-term measures until a long-term solution to dealing with the county’s waste was found.
He has also called on environment secretary Owen Paterson to review the Environment Agency’s decision to grant an operating permit for the plant.