King's Lynn incinerator legal challenge fails
A bid for a judicial review over plans for an incinerator in King's Lynn has failed at the High Court.
A judge found in favour of Norfolk County Council, which awarded a £500m contract to Cory Wheelabrator in March.
The plan to process 268,000 tonnes of rubbish a year at Saddlebow has faced strong local opposition.
Campaigner Michael de Whalley, who said the Conservative-run council's decision was "unlawful", was ordered to pay £15,000 towards the council's costs.
The contract, which will see some landfill waste recycled while energy is generated from the incineration of the rest, will run for 25 years.
Mr de Whalley, a member of the King's Lynn Without Incineration group, claimed there were irregularities with the way the council awarded the contract.
The court heard the March cabinet meeting was preceded by a Conservative group meeting, at which the party showed its "in principle support" for incineration.
Mr de Whalley claimed that this meant the subsequent public meeting was "a sham" and "a stage pantomime", and that the cabinet ignored a poll showing local objections.
But Judge Mr Justice Nicol found that Mr de Whalley had not shown that the councillors "fettered their discretion" or that their decision was one which "no reasonable authority could make".
The cabinet's decision was followed by a cabinet scrutiny meeting in April, at which a wider group of councillors chose not to refer the issue back to cabinet or to full council.
Mr de Whalley claimed that decision was also unlawful, arguing that a party "whip" was employed, forcing Tory councillors to support the cabinet's decision.
But Mr Justice Nicol also rejected that claim, ruling: "Two members of the party voted for or abstained from the motions and there is no evidence that there were sanctions imposed by the party."
He concluded: "For all these reasons I consider that none of the challenges made by the claimant to the decisions of March 2011 and April 2011 are arguable and, for these reasons, I would refuse permission for judicial review."
Speaking after the hearing, Defra said it had asked the council for more information regarding the support of the proposal.
"The council has provided that and Defra is currently looking at the information," it said.
"A decision on whether we will approve the use of PFI credits is unlikely to happen within days.
"It is more likely to be weeks."
Bill Borrett, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for environment and waste, said: "In terms of this proposal, there are still a number of important hurdles to overcome, but to get an early decision in this way is very pleasing."