A barrister called in to examine the Lynn incinerator contract has said he can find no evidence that councillors or officers acted improperly in securing the deal.
The conclusion has angered campaigners, who have asked the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to investigate how the agreement between Norfolk County Council and Cory Wheelabrator was reached.
But current and former leaders of the authority have both welcomed the findings and urged critics to accept them.
The county council agreed in June to set up an indpendent investigation into the process through which the contract for the controversial Saddlebow scheme came to be signed.
Representatives of the campaign against the plant chose Jonathan Acton Davis QC to carry out that inquiry in August.
But his report, which was published several weeks later than expected on Monday, provided little in the way of good news for the plan’s critics.
He concluded: “Following my critical examination of all the material with which I have been provided and my review of the advice given at each stage, I can find nothing to lead me to conclude that any undue risk was taken.
“I can identify no areas in which I can see potential scope for the holding to account of officers. I have seen nothing which would enable me to conclude that the cabinet exceeded its authority in authorising the contract.”
But a leading anti-incinerator campaigner has written to the SFO to urge them to examine the deal.
Mike Knights, the vice-chairman of King’s Lynn Without Incineration (KLWIN), said: “After everything that has happened, I find it incredible to read how all those involved are now apparently blameless.
“If the way this council conducts its business is considered acceptable, it suggests to me the bar is set very low.”
But Norfolk County Council leader George Nobbs said: “We accept Mr Acton Davis’s conclusions and we expect everybody else to do the same.”
His predecessor Bill Borrett, who was a member of the Conservative adminstration which approved the award of the contract to Cory Wheelabrator in 2011, said the findings did not surprise him.
He added: “I have always maintained this project has been undertaken legitimately and trust that the words of Mr Acton Davis will deter further remarks about the integrity of our officers.”
But North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham dismissed the findings as a “whitewash” and claimed Mr Acton Davis’ remit was too narrow.
He said: “I don’t think he ever had a chance to take a great deal of evidence.
“I don’t regard it as a scandal. I regard it as a missed opportunity.”
The report was released just a few weeks before the expected publication of the government’s decision on whether the application to build the incinerator should be given planning permission.
Objectors insist that the ruling from the Department for Communties and Local Government is more critical than the QC’s report.