The Lynn incinerator plan is on the brink of being ditched this afternoon, Monday, March 31, after county council chiefs said it would cost too much to wait for a planning decision.
The recommendation was revealed a short time ago ahead of two crunch meetings next week, where the future of the project is set to be determined.
The news has delighted opponents of the scheme, though they are remaining cautious until the extraordinary meeting of Norfolk County Council takes place next Monday, April 7.
Michael de Whalley, of the King’s Lynn Without Incineration (KLWIN) campaign group, said: “We’re not counting our chickens, but it is extremely heartening and unexpected.”
It is currently estimated that taxpayers would have to find around £30 million to compensate contractors Cory Wheelabrator if the Saddlebow proposal does not get planning permission.
And, in a 28 page report to councillors published earlier today, officers said that cost would rise by £400,000 per month from next month if they chose to continue with the scheme.
The report said: “Meeting those costs would present the risk of greater implications for services than a decision to reject an increase to the breakage cap now.”
The report also reveals that the projected savings compared to putting waste into landfill have fallen to around £12 million over the life of the contract and is continuing to drop by £140,000 every day.
And officers say those benefits will have been lost altogether if a planning decision has not been reached by June of this year.
Council leader George Nobbs said: “The officers’ recommendation is clear and unambiguous, and it is my intention, after listening to the views of the whole council, to recommend that cabinet acts upon that advice.”
But Mr Nobbs claimed the turning point in the saga had been the delay in communities secretary Eric Pickles’ decision on whether the plant should be given planning permission, with no sign being given of an imminent ruling.
He said: “The result has been that we are being asked to gamble with Norfolk County Council’s financial future, and that I will not do.”
North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham said he had been “staggered” when he heard the recommendation, but added: “This is the right recommendation.”
He also paid tribute to West Norfolk’s residents for consistently expressing their opposition to the idea.
There has so far been no comment from Cory Wheelabrator.