High Court to assess Norfolk County Council’s £500m waste incinerator battle

The introduction of large waste incinerators at various locations across the country, to solve the problems of rising landfill costs and of renewable energy targets, has caused numerous battles within local communities.

Of all these battles, the one raging in Norfolk between the local community at King’s Lynn and the County Council for Norfolk is perhaps the greatest, having resulted in a case that was decided upon in the High Court. The locals claimed the County Council was ‘riding roughshod over their democratic rights’ over the decision to build a £500m ‘energy from waste’ incinerator on the outskirts of their town.

They refuted the Government’s guidance on micro-particles produced by incineration and they strongly opposed the Council’s decision to approve planning permission, enabled by a vote which, they claim, was rigged in the Conservative meeting that preceded it.

The Council, however, has the unenviable task of balancing the opinion of their electorate with their own infrastructure needs. Landfill tax is now at an average of £56 per tonne and the cost to local government is expected to rise to £1.1bn by 2013. Introduction of a waste incinerator could provide energy for 36,000 homes and burn up to 500,000 tonnes of waste a year – a viable solution to a difficult problem.

Local opinion is overwhelmingly against the idea though, 92% of King’s Lynn residents reputedly rejecting the idea at a public consultation. On a wider scale however, this figure was conversely 65% in favour of the idea when the question was put to residents all over Norfolk.

Bill Borrett, Norfolk County Council’s cabinet member for the environment, said that the county stands to lose £200 million should the project fall through.

The local council, West Norfolk Borough Council, has aligned itself with the people of King’s Lynn and objects to the incinerator plans.

Nick Daubney, the borough council leader, said: “David Cameron is rightly talking about localism. I will not back down. We know other technologies are available.”

But the Government disagrees. Matthew Farrow, of the Government’s Environmental Services Association, said: “Aside from combustion, there is currently no readily available commercial technology that can deal with large volumes of residual waste.”

The case reached its head on 5th December 2011 at the High Court, where the judge found in favour of Norfolk County Council. Campaigner Michael de Whalley has been ordered to pay £15,000 towards the council’s costs and the plans for this controversial incinerator seem set to go ahead.


Editors Viewpoint: Incinerator plans need joined up thinking….. Build incinerators next to existing power stations.


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