Norfolk County Council pays first instalment of King’s Lynn incinerator bill

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Norfolk County Council chiefs have paid the first instalment of compensation for axing the Lynn incinerator contract, even though it is still unclear what the final bill will be.

A total of £11.8 million, which the authority says covered fluctuations in foreign exchange and interest rates, was paid on Monday, officials confirmed in a statement to councillors.

The council has also admitted that the Cory Wheelabrator consortium, which still hopes to win planning permission for the Saddlebow scheme, did meet its contractual obligations for securing planning consent.

But project director Joel Hull said specialist advisors, including forensic accountants, were now examining evidence submitted by the firms to support their payment claim.

He added: “We will request further evidence or reject any part of the compensation claim where required.”

When councillors voted to terminate the contract in April, officials estimated the decision would leave the county with a bill of around £34 million.

The deadline for paying the exchange rate element was due to pass on Monday and Mr Hull said the council’s advisors had encouraged them to pay, despite some critics arguing no money should change hands.

The biggest chunk of the bill, £20.3 million, relates to the clause in the contract which allows Cory Wheelabrator to claim up to that amount to meet costs incurred in pursuing the proposal and is expected to be due in early September.

And a further £1.6 million will be due to meet the contractors’ costs relating to last year’s public inquiry into the scheme.

Mike Knights, vice-chairman of the King’s Lynn Without Incineration (KLWIN) campaign group, said: “It’s a very expensive lesson to learn. I hope it makes people look much more carefully at these things in the future.”

Meanwhile, the county council yesterday announced it had agreed a two-year deal to send waste to an incinerator in Suffolk from next month.

The deal, which the authority claims will save around £1 million per year, will see around 20 per cent of the waste produced by Norfolk householders that cannot be recycled burnt in the Great Blakenham facility, subject to Defra approval.

Council leader George Nobbs said the material, which will come from the Yarmouth and North Norfolk areas, would otherwise go into landfill.

He added: “Local authorities like us have the determination, the will, the ability and the maturity to share services where such arrangements will bring mutual benefits. That is certainly the case with this agreement.”