King's Lynn incinerator plan bites the dust
After many years of wrangling it looks like the good people of West Norfolk have finally won their battle to stop an incinerator being built at King's Lynn.
Although council leaders have announced they're scrapping the controversial scheme, it's hardly a win-win scenario. Everyone in the county is going to have to pick up the compensation bill and what a bill it is, all £30m of it.
It's the latest twist in a political blame game. Conservatives running Norfolk County Council wanted to reduce the amount of rubbish going to landfill but they faced stiff opposition from local councillors and the North West Norfolk Conservative MP Henry Bellingham.
He said: "I am delighted with the decision. It was not value for money and not only would the costs have gone on mounting but there are other more cost-effective solutions.
Contractors Cory Wheelabrator are due costs of £30m arising from the termination of the contract to build the incinerator. Mr Bellingham hopes the company will not want the full amount and believes the government will help out.
"We are going to go to the Department for Communities and Local Government to make it clear that there are ways they can be assisting - perhaps a capital interest loan to be repaid over some years. We can work with the government to try to mitigate this."
But the county council's Labour leader, George Nobbs, accused the MP of being unrealistic. He said: "This is not reality. I don't know what dream world he lives in.
"It is foolish to pretend that the company won't want compensating. They've lost millions of pounds."
Tories torn apart
The incinerator row goes back almost a decade. In 2011 a vote organised by West Norfolk council found 65,000 people in the area opposed the scheme but the county council, then led by the Conservatives, dismissed the result.
It decided to push ahead with the project, putting them at loggerheads with Conservative-run West Norfolk council.
In the same year the Tories lost 11 seats in the local elections in King's Lynn and the fight has ripped apart the Tories in Norfolk.
The wrangle claimed the scalp of the former Conservative county council leader Derek Murphy, who stood down permanently after being censured by the council's standards committee in connection with his actions over the incinerator.
A public inquiry was held and the planning inspector's recommendation was then passed on to the Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles.
The economics of the whole project were thrown into chaos in November by his department's decision to withdraw a £169m government grant.
Mr Pickles' planning decision, promised back in January, has been repeatedly delayed, which has cost the council dear. The scheme's value for money has reduced with each week's delay as costs rise and the contract payback period is shortened.
Mr Nobbs said: "Mr Pickles has refused to help Norfolk.
"We have made provision for the compensation. We have now found £18m and we need to find another £11m although it will hurt Norfolk."
Councillors are being urged to bite the bullet and vote to back the plans to finally terminate the contract and end this saga.