Eric Pickles urged to step into West Norfolk incinerator row that majority oppose

LOCAL government minister Eric Pickles was last night urged to step in to the row over plans to build an incinerator in West Norfolk.

It came as West Norfolk councillors sitting at an emergency meeting passed four motions put before them by their leader Nick Daubney to carry on the fight against the Saddlebow, Kings Lynn, scheme.

Hundreds packed into the Town Hall to hear the meeting. Protestors demonstrated in the street outside, while hundreds more stood in a car park behind the building, to hear the meeting being relayed over a PA system.

Cllr Daubney called the meeting after a council poll revealed more than 65,000 people opposed the incinerator which was “ignored” by the county council’s Cabinet when it awarded the contract to Anglo-American consortium Cory Wheelabrator to build and run the plant.

Cllr Daubney said: “Residents give us their trust, but they are not naive, they give us that trust and understand that there are times when difficult decisions have to be made for the community’s benefit.

“As a politician, I know that when that trust is abused, it is lost. I am not talking about elections but about our role in the community and our responsibility to do the right thing by our community.

“I did not stand as a political representative to help ram down the throats of over 65,000 people an incinerator they never asked for and do not want.

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“We had 60per cent [of the population of West Norfolk] participate in this poll which is higher than a general election and 65,516 people voted no.

“Ignoring that degree of public opinion demonstrates an arrogant disregard for democracy because the results speak for themselves.”

Cllr Daubney said calling the poll was the right thing to do. PR consultants working for the incinerator companies tried to undermine the result with their own “market research”.

“How can we do anything other than oppose the construction of this incinerator,” said Cllr Daubney.

“We are working hard to attract more business activity to our district, more tourism, more academic facilities and more leisure facilities.

“We are trying to grow King’s Lynn so how does building an unwanted facility up wind from our population centres assist? It does the opposite.

“I am urging this borough council to support the recommendations I have put forward because by doing so we make this council’s position absolutely clear.”

The four motions were all carried unanimously at last night’s meeting apart from the second which saw Councillor Janet Murphy, wife of county council leader Derrick, abstain.

The first motion read: “The council deplores the decision taken by the cabinet of Norfolk County Council on March 7 to approve the contract for the construction of a mass burn incinerator in Saddlebow.

“The council condemns the decision because it was undemocratic in that it ignored the 65,000 local people in West Norfolk who voted to oppose the incinerator.

“It went against the wishes of the two elected MPs for West Norfolk both of whom opposes the incinerator and because it strikes at the very heart of the localism agenda.”

The second motion read: “This council believes the actions of the county council have given notice to the public that the application to construct the incinerator has been ‘predetermined’ and so disqualifies the county council from being a competent planning authority in this instance.

“Further, this council believes that financial arrangements set in place with the contractor impede on open and fair decision process.

“Therefore, we call upon the secretary of state to ‘call in’ the decision and determine the application.”

The third motion urged councillors to agree to oppose the construction of the incinerator as an authority.

The last motion read: “Council instructs the chief executive to bring an urgent report to cabinet to consider appropriate measures open to the borough council to give effect to these recommendations, together with any consequent resource implications.”

Protestors began gathering long before the meeting began. Their chants included: “What do we want - democracy. When do we want it - now?”

Michael De Whalley, from the King’s Lynn Without Incineration group said: “It’s amazing; people have really taken the issue to their hearts.

“It’s become more than an issue about an incinerator - it’s become an issue about local democracy.”

Anti-incinerator campaigner Frances Nolan said: “I think it’s sad, because we have voted in a fair referendum, over 65,000 people said no but were ignored by the Conservative county council.”

Fellow protestor John Hocknell, a retired newspaper photographer, said: “There are people here protesting who have never taken to the streets before.

“There are as many people furious about the aftermath of the referendum as there are about the incinerator.”

If built, the Willows power and recycling centre on the Saddlebow industrial estate would be capable of treating up to 268,000 tonnes of household and commercial waste every year.

Rebel Tories have joined councillors from all other parties in calling in the county council’s decision to award the incinerator contract in the face of such opposition.

The county scrutiny committee, which is due to discuss the call-in next Tuesday, could refer decision back to the full council.