December 5 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, September 26, 2013
The Norfolk incinerator saga has taken a fresh twist, after it emerged a county council director briefed senior civil servants over Norwich City Council’s position on the plant - without the knowledge of City Hall officers or councillors.
A Freedom of Information request has revealed that Mike Jackson, the county council’s director of environment, transport and development, emailed officials at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in January last year - just days after the city council leader Brenda Arthur wrote to the government department to say the authority did not support incinerators.
The email exchange came as a decision over whether to award £169m pounds in waste credits for the proposed incinerator at King’s Lynn was hanging in the balance, with then environment secretary Caroline Spelman seeking evidence of “broad support” for the scheme.
Mrs Arthur had written to the department to say the council’s position on incineration had not changed since proposals for a plant to be built in Costessey were discussed in 2007, when the council passed a motion that it was against any form of waste treatment involving incineration.
But it has now emerged that Mr Jackson, just three days after Mrs Arthur sent her letter, emailed Defra civil servants himself “in case further evidence of that authority’s continued support for the Joint Norfolk Municipal Waste Strategy and active engagement in the Norfolk Waste Partnership is needed”.
Mr Jackson provided a timeline which he said provided “factual evidence of the extensive engagement and support the city council has demonstrated, and continues to demonstrate” in those partnerships.
He added: “We provide factual evidence that, from the very outset of the strategy’s development, including public consultation as far back as 2000, the potential role of energy from waste as part of the strategy’s delivery has been widely communicated and generally supported.”
Mr Jackon’s email also states, despite the motion against incineration, on “several occasions” since, the city council had confirmed the importance of the joint municipal waste strategy and its support for the objectives in it; had refused an opportunity to publicly oppose the proposal for Saddlebow and had chosen to make ‘no comment’ in the consultation on the planning application for the plant.
The following week, Mrs Arthur was called by the environment secretary and told her the city council supported working with the waste partnership, but said the word incinerator was never used. Two days later the credits for the plant were awarded.
At a city council meeting this week, where Green city and county councillor Andrew Boswell asked whether the city council had been aware of Mr Jackson’s email, Mrs Arthur said the council “neither saw nor signed off the email”.
She added: “I have to say, having looked at this, that parts of it are at best selective writing and at worst out and out fiction.”
She said she intended to take the matter up with the county council.
A county council spokeswoman said: “In response to a request from Defra, the county council provided factual evidence to them in January 2012 that demonstrated the city council’s role in the development and implementation of the nine key objectives of the Joint Municipal Waste Strategy and the work of the Norfolk Waste Partnership.
“It included a factual timeline of key dates for extensive engagement at consultations and public meetings that were relevant to the city council’s involvement in this.”
However, Mr Boswell said it was “unprecedented” for an officer of another local authority to write to the government about policy matters at another authority and said it “smacks in the face” of the city council.