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Revealed: Norfolk County Council environment chief told leader county incinerator 'would be ideal'

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A decade on from the peak of the battle over the Lynn incinerator, the councillor in charge of county environmental policy told a colleague one in Norfolk “would be ideal”.

The revelation comes from a Freedom of Information request which has been made amid continuing questions about County Hall attitudes to plans for a massive new burner on the edge of West Norfolk.

And the 250 pages of documents also show opponents of the new proposal were dubbed “the lot from the West” by the county council’s leader.

The Wisbech incinerator will be twice the size of this one that MVV Environment built in Plymouth. (51700883)
The Wisbech incinerator will be twice the size of this one that MVV Environment built in Plymouth. (51700883)

Concerns have persisted for several months about proposals for a burner, which would be capable of burning more than 625,000 tonnes of waste a year, on land in Wisbech – around half a mile from the borough’s border.

Although several local authorities, including West Norfolk, have already declared their opposition to the scheme, Norfolk County Council refused to follow suit when it debated the subject in September.

At the time, its leadership argued that it would not be appropriate for the authority to comment until a planning application, which is expected in the New Year, is submitted.

But documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request, and seen by the Lynn News, suggest different attitudes were being expressed behind the scenes.

In an email exchange from early July, environment and waste portfolio holder Andy Grant said he had “no idea what all the fuss is”.

He said the plant would be in Cambridge and the council would have no say, even though connections intended to link the site to the power grid would cross the county boundary.

He wrote that “in my view incineration is better than landfill and I have no issue with them being built”.

He added: “I still believe our own one would be ideal” and claimed it would be “two faced” for the council to oppose the scheme when it sends waste to other burners.

He was replying to leader Andrew Proctor who wrote: “I don’t know how much you know about this but the lot from the west, [Alexandra] Kemp and [Nick] Daubney in particular, are saying we need to oppose this.

“Well do we? I’m not against it – what’s your take?”

Miss Kemp, who submitted the request, branded the comment “deeply disrespectful”, adding: “They want to put the waste in West Norfolk and all the money in Norwich and the east.”

Mr Daubney, who opposed the Lynn burner as West Norfolk Council leader and is now a Conservative county councillor, said it was “unfortunate terminology” and not language he would have used himself.

But he insisted the group had not come to a final position on the plan, though he conceded there were differing views.

He added: “I don’t think it’s really fair to get too excited before positions are absolutely established.”

County Hall officials maintain that the authority’s policy against incineration in the county, adopted in 2014, remains in place.

A separate policy states: “Incineration of waste or fuel derived from waste is accepted outside Norfolk and any such arrangements should be reviewed by Committee on an annual basis.”

But Mr Grant had not responded to our questions at the time of going to press.

We asked him to explain why an incinerator was desirable and how operation of the one currently proposed was compatible with efforts to combat climate change.

Mr Proctor did respond, providing a copy of the speech he made when the issue was discussed at a full council meeting in September.

In it he claimed that a motion calling for the council to oppose the project was “premature”.

He added that “we recognise the views and concerns expressed by residents of Norfolk who live in the Borough of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk. I’m sure that the County Council’s response will take that into consideration.”

Despite that, pressure for the authority to act has grown after a report by MPs this week called for a moratorium on new incinerators.

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