West Norfolk Council backs plan to buy King’s Lynn incinerator site

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West Norfolk Council leaders have backed a plan to buy the Lynn incinerator site in order to prevent the controversial plant ever being built.

Members of the authority’s ruling cabinet agreed in principle to purchase the Saddlebow land during a meeting on Tuesday.

And officials are now set to approach Norfolk County Council, who bought the site for just over £1.75 million in 2008 according to latest documents, to seek an independent valuation of the site before any potential deal can be struck.

Council leader Nick Daubney said the move would ease fears over whether the plant could still be built if the government gives planning consent.

He said: “There is demand for industrial land in and around King’s Lynn. I have no fears on that score and the whole population will feel more comfortable if it is in local ownership.”

The decision, which came less than two weeks after the first public call for the borough to buy the land, came on the same day that plans for dealing with the financial and practical consequences of ending the incinerator contract were set out.

Although £19 million was set aside to pay compensation to the Cory Wheelabrator consortium when the budget for the current financial year was settled in February, that still left an £11.3 million shortfall.

While most of that will be found from a combination of savings, underspends and reserves, as well as a £500,000 government grant, county officers say just over £1 million will have to come either from cuts to road repairs and library book budgets, or from council tax collected on second homes, which district councils would otherwise keep.

That could cost the borough around £780,000 and Mr Daubney said he felt the move was “politically motivated” and “inappropriate.”

He added: “This was a big opportunity to come together. I don’t want to blow it and I don’t think the county should.

But county council leader George Nobbs said: “No matter how much we have tried to minimise the impact, it would be foolish to pretend there won’t be some cuts that will hurt.”

The financial plan will be debated during a county council cabinet meeting on Monday, where a proposal to burn some of the county’s waste in Suffolk’s incinerator will also be considered.

Officers are recommending that the authority completes a deal for up to 50,000 tonnes of waste per year to be dealt with on the site at Great Blakenham, near Ipswich, which is due to begin operating next month.

The report recommends that any initial agreement between the councils should last for no more than three years.