INCINERATOR: Delay welcomed
22nd March 2011 - the following article is reproduced by kind permission of Lynn News
ANTI-INCINERATOR campaigners and politicians have today welcomed county council moves to delay scrutiny of the controversial Saddlebow scheme until all interested parties have been given sufficient time to study crucial documents.
A motion to adjourn the Norfolk county council cabinet scrutiny committee’s discussions of the issue was passed on a casting vote this morning amid extraordinary scenes at County Hall in Norwich.
With the vote tied at 8-8, the casting vote of Green councillor Philip Hardy, who was chairing the meeting in the absence of committee chairman Paul Morse, carried the motion.
And Mr Hardy pledged that lessons would be learned from the episode.
Speaking after the meeting, independent environment consultant Richard Burton said: “I think it is one of the first fair things that has happened in this entire process, by a very narrow margin.”
He also thanked the dozens of supporters who had turned out to attend the meeting.
The meeting was told that witnesses called to attend the meeting had not been given access to papers relating to the incinerator plans until yesterday, instead of the five days’ notice before the hearing which is legally required. Problems with the IT system had contributed to the delay, committee members and a packed public gallery heard.
Legal officer Chris Skinner advised that it would be lawful for the meeting to proceed in any event.
But Liberal Democrat group deputy leader Mervyn Scutter proposed a motion that the meeting should be adjourned to allow witnesses the necessary time to prepare.
Many of those called to give evidence, including Mr Burton and fellow anti-incinerator campaigners Mike Knights and Dr Chris Edwards said they felt they had not been given sufficient time to prepare for the meeting.
And West Norfolk Council leader Nick Daubney said he had not received any papers at all, owing to confusion over whether he had been called to attend as a witness.
But Conservative councillor Cliff Jordan said he felt he had had sufficient time to prepare, despite only receiving his papers yesterday.
He said: “I’ve had adequate time because I can read and I can understand. I don’t think anyone is saying they are illiterate.”
But Mr Scutter said proceeding with the debate would be “a very bad day for democracy in Norfolk.”
Twin hat councillor Tony White, who sits on the scrunity committee, voted in support of the motion.
But fellow twin-hatters Michael Langwade and Jean Mickleburgh were not present and sent their apologies, together with Fincham division member Richard Rockliffe.
And Cllr John Dobson, who proposed one of three separate call-ins of the scheme, challenged his fellow twin-hatters to “stand up and be counted” on the issue.
Mr Dobson has called for the issue to be debated by the full council.
And he added: “When it comes back, I hope to see the West Norfolk councillors turning up.”
It is currently unclear when the issue will return to the committee, though some councillors expected a meeting may be scheduled as early as next week.