Council puts incinerator decision on back burner
18th June 2013 - the following article is reproduced by kind permission of Lynn News
A final decision on whether the contract for the Lynn incinerator project should be scrapped was put on hold at a meeting in Norwich yesterday.
Councillors had arrived at County Hall ready to consider two motions calling for a commitment to axe the agreement with Cory Wheelabrator and the seeking of government help to meet the potential costs of such a decision.
But, following backroom talks between party leaders during an hour-long adjournment, a single motion, which stated it would be “premature” to debate the issue further until the outcomes of independent reviews of the project and work examining alternative proposals were known, was overwhelmingly passed with only two abstentions and no-one against.
And, with councillors hearing that a decision on the planning application for the plant is not expected until early next year, that means there is set to be several more months of uncertainty over the issue.
The lack of a decision has raised concerns among campaigners against the Saddlebow scheme.
Speaking ahead of the vote, Michael de Whalley, of Kings Lynn Without Incineration (KLWIN), said: “I appreciate and applaud the need to consider the contract and the alternatives, but little of substance has been proposed by Norfolk County Council since the change of administration.
“I am not hopeful that anything of value will come out of today’s debate.”
But council leader George Nobbs, who maintained the reviews were needed in order to give councillors the full picture on the issue, said he was “heartened” by thedebate.
Conservative John Dobson, who withdrew his call for the council to commit to pull out of the contract, said he was doing so for reasons of “pragmatism”, but added: “That doesn’t mean I won’t bring it forward again.”
The remaining motion, proposed by independent councillor Richard Bird, welcomed the decision to seek independent reviews of the contract and the potential costs of walking away from the deal. It added: “Full council recognises that Cabinet will be drawing up contingency arrangements, involving officers, including looking at alternatives to Energy from Waste, in case the contract does not got ahead.”
And Conservative incinerator critic Brian Long urged his colleagues to look at waste as a “commodity”, rather than as a fuel.
Earlier, Mr Dobson had reminded council leader George Nobbs of the Labour group’s election manifesto, which pledged to use “all legal means” to suspend incinerator proposals, asking: “Which part of this pledge does he not understand?”
But the leader replied: “All legal means does not mean walking away from a contract that would bankrupt the council.”
He also accused Mr Dobson of wanting to “torpedo” the reviews proposed by the council’s cabinet scrutiny committee and ordered by cabinet last week.
As reported, council officers have warned that pulling out of the contract could leave taxpayers facing a bill of up to £90 million, based on the experiences of a similar proposal in Cornwall.
Conservative group leader Bill Borrett insisted that the contract, which was awarded by a cabinet that he had been part of, was awarded “with the best of intentions. But he warned: “The figures are so enormous that if we balls this up, it will have a very large impact on services.”
However, UKIP group leader Toby Coke said a report into the Cornwall scheme had still recommended that the contract should be halted despite the expected costs.
Many councillors welcomed the chance for the authority to use the time expected to be set aside for the planningdecision to fully review the incinerator deal.
But Conservative Ian Monson warned that the council would have to pay out £155,000 each week that the plant was not operating after its scheduled start date in April 2015.