December 11 2013 Latest news:
Public affairs correspondent
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
A group of councillors against an incinerator being built in Norfolk will today call for every county councillor to finally get a vote on the plant.
And the cross-party group will present what they say is compelling evidence for a rethink over the proposal for an incinerator at Saddlebow, near King’s Lynn.
A press conference has been called at County Hall by councillors, led by UKIP leader Toby Coke, who has promised to reveal new proposals to deal with Norfolk’s waste.
It is understood that two reports, commissioned by Mr Coke, will be unveiled which ask whether the council should pull the plug on the contract with Cory Wheelabrator.
It is believed the reports explore a possible alternative - which would see Norfolk’s waste incinerated in Amsterdam.
The incinerator scheme has been awarded £169m in PFI credits, but the council is waiting to hear whether the secretary of state will ratify its decision to grant planning permission.
Mr Coke said: “The two reports that we will be unveiling clearly demonstrate that it is only central government subsidies that are enabling this thoroughly unpopular and impractical venture to compete with other more sustainable means of dealing with Norfolk’s waste.”
Conservative John Dobson, who is also part of the group, and originally called in the decision by his fellow Conservatives to approve the incinerator contract, said: “This £600m project has never even been debated in full council and it has poisoned Norfolk politics for the last three years and will continue to do so, unless there is a complete re-think based on the proposals we will be unveiling today.”
The potential multi-million-pound bill to Norfolk County Council for ripping up the contract was revealed in a report drawn up by council officers in the summer.
It had long been known there is a compensation clause capped at £20.3m in the contract, should the £596m plant fail to secure planning permission, but officers say the cost could be far higher if it collapses for other reasons.
While they stopped short of putting a figure on what that bill would be, they said the £80m to £90m cost produced for Cornwall Council when considering abandoning its contract provides “a useful indication” as to the bill.
In the summer, it also emerged a draft revised project plan was submitted in April. That was lodged because the original longstop date – a contractual condition giving a date by which a contractual condition or set of conditions has to be met – would be missed because of the public inquiry into the granting of planning permission for the plant.
Green Party councillor Andrew Boswell said: “There must now be a full council debate on the revised project plan. Rejecting it will massively reduce termination costs to the council.
“If the new administration fails to allow a full council debate, there will be nothing to distinguish them from the previous administration which signed the contract and got the county and its council taxpayers into this mess in the first place.”
George Nobbs, leader of Norfolk County Council, which is run by a Labour/Liberal Democrat administration, said: “I will listen very carefully to what Mr Coke has to say. He has been consistent in his position, which is more than can be said for some people.
“I am sure he will make a powerful case for a meeting of the council.”