The controversial incinerator project at Saddlebow in Lynn appeared to be dead today after the government announced it was withdrawing a waste infrastructure grant worth £169m over 25 years for The Willows waste treatment contract.
Norfolk County Council leader George Nobbs has expressed his disappointment at the news while North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham said he was delighted.
“The decision effectively buries the project,” said Mr Bellingham. “Because of the way the contradt was configured, it can have no future without Government support, with the grants made by DEFRA.
“This has been achieved by the Government following intense lobbying from Elizabeth Truss and myself and I expect to see a decision within the next 10 days effectively burying the project.”
DEFRA’s statement said: “We are investing over £3.5 billion in waste infrastructure projects to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill, promote recycling and stimulate economic growth.
“The amount of waste sent to landfill is at its lowest level while recycling rates have been increasing year on year and are now the highest on record.
“Given that we expect to have sufficient infrastructure in England to enable us to meet the EU target of reducing waste sent to landfill and considering all other relevant factors, the decision has been taken not to fund the Norfolk project.”
Norfolk County Councillor John Dobson, a leading opponent of the project, said: “I am very pleased and it’s clear that common sense has prevailed. It’s going to save the tax payers enormous amounts of money and it has vindicated those people who have been fighting against the incinerator project. It bears out what the treasury select committee has been saying publicly for the past 12 months that PFI’s represent very poor value for the taxpayers.”
Paul Green from Cory Wheelabrator, the consortium behind the project, said: “We are disappointed that the Waste Infrastructure Credits have been withdrawn from the Norfolk project. The Consortium will submit a revised project plan to Norfolk County Council in line with its contract.”
The announcement comes just days before an extraordinary meeting of the full council is to be held on Monday, October 28, to debate the future of the contract which the county council has signed with Cory Wheelabrator.
The council was told this morning that the grant was being withdrawn and Mr Nobbs has now instructed officers to prepare reports on the financial consequences.
He said: “Today’s announcement clearly adds a new dimension to the debate about waste disposal in Norfolk.
“I have instructed officers to report back in time for the full council meeting, which I am glad is taking place, so that we have an informed debate around all the issues. I have always recognised that people on all sides of this debate have sincerely held views that need to be aired as part of this process.
“Nonetheless, the council is still bound by the contract entered into by the previous administration.
“Make no mistake, which ever way you choose to look at it, this is more bad news from this Government for Norfolk taxpayers.”
The meeting of all members of the county council on October 28 will begin in the council chamber at 10am. The council’s cabinet will meet the next day (Tuesday) at 9am to consider any issues arising from the previous day’s debate.
The notice put forward states that the purpose of the meeting is for members to receive the following reports:
* The independent QC’s report and the financial expert’s report commissioned by Cabinet
* A report from officers on contingency arrangements
* A report from the Head of Finance on implications for the County Council’s budget position
* Reports from Eunomia and from Dr Chris Edwards, both commissioned by Cllr Coke, Leader of the UKIP group