Published on Mon Nov 22 17:34:02 GMT 2010
GOVERNMENT minister and local MP Henry Bellingham is urging Norfolk County Council to suspend the proposed Â£150m-plus waste incinerator scheme at Lynn and to examine safer options.
In an exclusive interview with Lynn News senior writer Mike Last, the NW Norfolk MP called on the county council to hold public polls in Lynn and villages near the incinerator site at the Willows Business Park in South Lynn.
Only then, he said, would the authority get a real understanding of local public opinion about the proposal – and the majority view should hold sway.
Last week, the county council cabinet chose Anglo-US company Cory Wheelabrator as its preferred bidder for the â€œenergy from wasteâ€ plant, which would be capable of treating 170,000 tonnes of black bin waste and a further 90,000 tonnes of commercial waste each year.
It means that proposals will now be drawn up and a planning application submitted for the new plant, which will also be able to produce energy for the National Grid and heating for nearby homes and factories.
But Mr Bellingham is concerned that a Â£20m compensation clause that the county council could face if its own planners fail to give the project the go-ahead, as revealed by the Lynn News, represents a â€œconflict of interestâ€.
He explained: â€œThe scheme wonâ€™t be able to be looked at completely independently because there will be this question of Â£20m compensation influencing the planning committee.â€
He said: â€œI have never known a project with more opposition to it â€“ itâ€™s absolutely massive – and itâ€™s not based just around technology but the impact on health.
â€œNorfolk County Council cannot say categorically that this plant will not affect health.â€
The authority was confidently stating that bigger particles emitted through the process would be filtered out. But it could not say that certain nano or micro particles escaping the filters would not damage health, and a lot of the concerns were focused on that aspect, he added.
Mr Bellingham said the county council had also not satisfied him that it was doing all it could to increase recycling rates significantly and examine other options for dealing with household and business waste.
He pointed out that Milan and other Italian cities had managed to boost their recycling rates from 20 per cent to about 80 per cent, through reducing packaging and greatly enhancing their recycling policies.
He feared Norfolk was factoring in a reduction in its effort to increase recycling from the current level of under 40 per cent by bringing in the incinerator.
But if it increased recycling to 80 per cent or more, and had anaerobic digestion facilities or mechanical biological treatment plants, like the one at Waterbeach recently featured in the Lynn News, an incinerator would not be needed, he said.
The MP said that in these tough economic times using Â£169m of Government grant, and a total cost of Â£500m to the taxpayer, over the 25-year life of the incinerator was â€œnot a good use of public moneyâ€.
He pointed out: â€œThe Government is looking very closely at all outstanding Private Finance Initiative credits and there must be a strong possibility of that PFI credit being cancelled because there is a continuing review by the Treasury and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.â€
If NCC still wants the incinerator, it must consult with people in Lynn and nearby villages like West Winch, North Runcton, North and South Wootton and the Wiggenhalls, through holding ballots, with the Electoral Commission overseeing the process, he said.
â€œI hope the county council will commit to having local referenda – and if people donâ€™t vote in favour of the incinerator they donâ€™t have to have it,â€ he added.