Norfolk County Council ends King’s Lynn incinerator contract

Anti-incinerator campaigners board the bus for Norwich. ANL-140704-093438001
Anti-incinerator campaigners board the bus for Norwich. ANL-140704-093438001
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Campaigners against the Lynn incinerator project are celebrating victory after the controversial scheme was finally scrapped.

County councillors voted by 48 to 30 to end the authority’s contract with the Cory Wheelabrator after a heated debate at County Hall in Norwich today (Monday, April 7).

That decision was followed by a cabinet meeting, in which members voted unanimously to axe the scheme.

There was loud applause as the end of the saga that has poisoned Norfolk’s politics was finally confirmed.

As first reported in the Lynn News last Tuesday, council officers had recommended that the contract should be allowed to end because of the expectation of rising costs after the start of next month.

They also warned that the perceived savings of the development compared to landfilling waste would be lost completely if no decision on the scheme was made by June.

Liberal Democrat David Harrison, the council’s cabinet member for waste, told the meeting that the consortium had made a revised offer over the weekend, which would have pushed the deadline at which the project was no longer deemed to be value for money back to August.

However, he said that made no difference to the recommendation to end the contract.

But Tory group leader Bill Borrett argued the scheme would remain good value for money up until early 2017, as factors including cash generated from the sale of energy had not been considered.

He said the only sensible financial decision was to continue, telling members: “If you vote to cancel, we will be saying to people receiving services from Norfolk County Council that in the summer they can’t have them.”

But Steve Morphew, the council’s cabinet member for finance, said the risk of continuing was now too great.

He said: “I’m comfortable taking risks with public money in the public interest, but I’m not going to gamble.”

During some heated exchanges, Tory councillor Ian Monson was forced to apologise when he had suggested the council’s officers had been politically influenced to recommend the contract was axed.

His speech was dramatically cut short by chairman Hilary Cox, before Fincham councillor, and long-time incinerator critic, Brian Long, claimed Mr Monson had struck him during the commotion. And there was more criticism of the Tory position amid claims that its members had been whipped to support the continuation of the decision.

During the full council vote, Margaret Dewsbury said: “Whipped. Abstain” when her name was called.

UKIP group leader Toby Coke described the incinerator contract as “the rip-off of the century.”

He insisted it was the authority’s duty to end the agreement, adding: “Any other course of action is a reckless gamble.”

Independent Alex Kemp, whose Clenchwarton and Lynn South division includes the incinerator site, said residents “could never give up the fight” against the scheme and insisted the only option was to “take away the threat” hanging over the area.

But Conservative Margaret Somerville accused objectors of “not wanting something they did not understand.”

Amid fury from the public gallery at her claim, she said the county needed a clean way of getting rid of its waste.

She added: “We had it and we’re about to blow it.”

But Liberal Democrat group leader Marie Strong said the way forward was “clear to anyone” without planning permission or the £169 million government grant to the scheme, which was withdrawn by ministers last October.

And Green councillor Andrew Boswell said a vote against the incinerator was a vote for Norfolk’s future.

He said: “This is the time to end the project and reunify the county.”