Renewed plea for Eric Pickles to hurry up with King’s Lynn incinerator decision
07:13 07 February 2014
A renewed call for Eric Pickles to make his decision on the King’s Lynn incinerator has been made as it emerged the potential compensation bill could rise further if the plans are given the red light after May.
What the Norfolk MPs say
North-West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham said: “What we don’t want is for Eric Pickles to make the wrong decision. It is unfair and unprofessional to push Eric Pickles to make the decision because it is a complex and highly technical. He has got to decide it on planning rather than political grounds and it is important that he takes time doing that.
It is quite wrong to put pressure on him to make his mind up quickly.”
Norwich South MP Simon Wright said: “I very much hope that the secretary of state will report back with a decision soon and I hope it will be a decision that stops the incinerator going ahead. This is a very expensive project, and one that is not wanted by the people of Norfolk and it is time to pull the plug.”
Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis said that he knew the decision the department and the secretary of state would make would be a planning decision and based on the evidence. It cannot be a decision based on anything else. He added: “Because I am in that department it would be inappropriate to comment on a planning case.”
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said: “I understand the concern of the county council and obviously certainty is incredibly important. I happen to believe the county council has made a big mistake.
“They should have sought to escape from this dreadful contract. But despite that disagreement, I understand their need to have certainty as soon as possible. I am not involved in the process and I do not know what has held it up.”
South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss MP said: “The energy from waste plant does not represent value for money for the Norfolk tax payer...
The reality is that Norfolk County Council has signed up to a contract at too high a price. They should come clean on the costs and abandon the incinerator now.”
South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon said: “I welcome it when the Department for Communities and Local Government makes prompt and clear decisions.”
Norfolk County Council said the 840,000 people of Norfolk were being left in limbo as the cabinet minister weighs up whether to uphold planning permission for the Saddlebow project.
A source close to Mr Pickles says a decision is still “not imminent” almost a month after he missed his own deadline of January 14, adding that he wanted to be sure that he had properly considered the evidence.
Anti-incinerator campaigner and North-West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham said it was wrong to put pressure on him to make his mind up quickly, claiming pressure should be put on the county council to scrap the scheme instead.
A spokesman for DCLG said Mr Pickles was aware of concerns about the delay, but the inspector’s report covered complex issues and there had been numerous post-inquiry representations and more time was needed to evaluate the planning issues.
In October Defra pulled a £169m grant towards the scheme, which campaigners hoped would see the plans go up in smoke. But councillors decided to press ahead anyway.
Norfolk County Council is due to set its budget on February 17, but County Hall leaders have said the delay over the decision has left the authority in limbo when it comes to its financial planning.
The authority is likely to face compensation claims from Cory Wheelabrator if planning permission is not granted, and officers have recommended that a “war chest” of £19m is built up to go some way to paying that bill.
But it has also emerged that, after May 1, an extra £5m will be added to that potential compensation payment, so the council could be facing a bill of up to £31m from the Anglo-US consortium it awarded a contract to run the £500m plant.
George Nobbs, Labour leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “I understand it’s a difficult position for Mr Pickles, but it is even more difficult for the 840,000 people of Norfolk because the county council budget is being affected by his indecision...
“Please, Mr Pickles, whatever your decision, do not delay it any further.”
Mr Pickles, whose department is responsible for the clear-up operation after the floods, spent yesterday announcing extra cash in the aftermath of the flooding crisis.
The delay comes against a backdrop where the county council will have to make £189m worth of cuts and savings over the next three years.
Among the cuts proposed are reducing library staff, charging for some recycling, spending less money fixing roads and axing of hundreds of council jobs.
Bill Borrett, leader of the opposition Conservative group, recently wrote to Mr Pickles urging him to make a swift decision.
Anti-incinerator campaigners say the council missed a golden opportunity in October to pull the plug on the scheme, when the full council voted by 40 votes to 38 to agree a revised project plan for the Saddlebow plant.
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