Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, was advised to rule in favour of plans to build an energy from waste facility in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, documents published yesterday (February 11) revealed. However, the facility was axed after the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) failed to reach a decision.
The Planning Inspector’s report on the abandoned Willows energy from waste incinerator in west Norfolk states it was recommended “that planning permission is granted for an energy from waste and recycling facility at Willows Business Park …” subject to conditions set out in the report.
No decision was given by the Secretary of State, which resulted in the County Council withdrawing from the contract on the grounds that the failure to secure planning permission.
The continuing delay meant that the contract no longer represented value for money, according to the council, which said savings of £250m anticipated at contract signing (over the lifetime of the project) were no longer achievable.
Toby Coke, Environment, Development and Transport Committee – “It’s perfectly clear that there was a political agenda being followed in delaying the planning inspector’s report and council taxpayers in Norfolk have been left with a huge bill as a result”
The Secretary of State did not make a decision and Cory and Wheelabrator formally withdrew the planning application in January this year (2015).
George Nobbs, Leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “The publication of this report is yet another episode in this sad, sorry saga. People may wish to reflect on the fact that this report was withheld by Mr Pickles’ department for 16 months, by which time the Willows project – which has cost so much to Norfolk people – was dead and buried.
“The application has been withdrawn, the Council has taken incineration off the agenda for good, and it is only now that this report has been released by the government. I suppose this is what people mean by ‘the smoking gun’.”
Toby Coke, Chairman of the council’s Environment, Development and Transport Committee, said: It’s perfectly clear that there was a political agenda being followed in delaying the planning inspector’s report and council taxpayers in Norfolk have been left with a huge bill as a result.
“All the talk about Mr Pickles carefully considering the arguments have been exposed for what they were – complete rubbish. Eric Pickles should do the honourable thing and stump up the £33.7m that his delay has cost Norfolk taxpayers.”
The report is available on Norfolk County Council’s website. Click here.
CIWM Journal Online has contacted the DCLG for comment.
The “Sad, Sorry Saga”
In March 2011 Norfolk County Council awarded a 25 year contract to Cory Wheelabrator to build and operate an energy from waste plant at the Willows Business Park, Saddlebow, King’s Lynn.
On 29 June 2012 the County Council’s Planning Regulatory Committee resolved to grant planning permission, subject to withdrawal of an Article 25 Direction, which prevented consent being issued without the agreement of the Secretary of State for Communities and local Government.
On 30 August 2012 the Secretary of State “called in” the application for determination by him.
A public inquiry was held in King’s Lynn in the Spring of 2013 and the report by Planning Inspector Elizabeth Hill was delivered to the Secretary of State at the end of September 2013, with a decision due on or before 14 January 2014.
In November 2013, £169m in waste infrastructure grant was withdrawn by the Government. No decision on the planning application was made and on 7 April 2014 Norfolk County Council’s Cabinet agreed to the termination of the contract.
On 8 January 2015, with no decision from the Secretary of State, Cory and Wheelabrator formally withdrew the planning application.
January 2015 Norfolk County Council completed compensation payments to Cory Wheelabrator.
The total was £33.7m. The total cost to Norfolk County Council including the process of securing waste infrastructure credits, the site, planning costs and compensation was £40m.