DEFRA wants more evidence of support for Norfolk plant

Norfolk County Council has accused the environment secretary of being 'irrational' after she said she needed more evidence of public support for a new waste incinerator before funds for the project of £169 million could be approved.

A council statement claimed that Caroline Spelman had "moved the goalposts" in relation to the bid for the waste infrastructure (WI) credits to part-fund the proposed facility in King's Lynn and that it had "never been a criterion that a major waste treatment proposal had to demonstrate wide support in the locality it was proposed for".

In a letter sent to the leader of the council Derrick Murphy, Spelman said she was not "currently in a position to confirm the provisional allocation of WI credits" because she was concerned about the large volume of objections to the proposal.

She also cited the fact that King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council had withdrawn support for the incinerator as a reason for blocking the allocation of WI credits.

In response, Murphy said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) had already confirmed the provisional allocation of WI credits.

He added that, with regard to supplying evidence, there was a "broad consensus" of support for the incinerator in the area, the council had "provided ample evidence already that this criterion has been met".

Seven other waste projects in England have been earmarked to receive WI credits. They are: North Yorkshire County Council and the City of York; Essex County Council and Southend on Sea; Merseyside; Barnsley Doncaster and Rotherham; Wakefield; Leeds; and Bradford.

Murphy said he was concerned that Spelman’s U-turn meant she had "changed the parameters within which all authorities have been working".

Bill Borrett, cabinet member for environment and waste at Norfolk County Council, said: "We won’t take this very surprising and seemingly irrational eleventh-hour change of approach lying down because of its implications for Norfolk’s hard pressed council tax payers."

Norfolk County Council claims the incinerator, which would cost around £500 million to build, would save council tax payers at least £200 million over 25 years because using landfill as an alternative would cost the county £800 million over the same period. 

The council said a ComRes poll of Norfolk residents showed 65 per cent supported the new energy from waste plant at King’s Lynn.

But a poll of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk residents showed that 93 per cent opposed the scheme.

A DEFRA spokeswoman said the department had requested more information relating to the proposed scheme and that "no decision has been made" regarding WI credits for the scheme.

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