Campaigners hoping to halt plans for a new incinerator in Norfolk have been dealt a major blow after a top judge refused their bid to challenge the council’s decision to award the contract.
Mr Justice Nicol turned down an application for a judicial review into Norfolk CC’s decision to award a contract for the £500m Willows Power and Recycling Facility.
The judge’s announcement, at the Administrative Court of the Royal Courts of Justice, represents the latest chapter in a protracted row, which has already provoked ministerial intervention.
Anti-incinerator campaigners claimed the council did not follow appropriate steps in awarding the contract to Anglo-US consortium Cory Wheelabrator.
But the judge has backed the council.
Norfolk cabinet member for environment and waste, Bill Borrett (Con), told local press: “We have maintained throughout that the county council’s processes in deciding to award the waste contract have been robustly and properly followed.
“However, we are glad that this has been recognised by Mr Justice Nicol. Clearly, there are still a number of important hurdles for the project to overcome, but to get an early decision in this way is very pleasing.”
“We remain in dialogue with Defra regarding the final release of Norfolk’s PFI credits.”
The campaigners vowed to fight on. Michael de Whalley, founder of King’s Lynn Against Incineration, said: “There are many hurdles for the county council to pass in their race towards mass burn incineration. The first was the referendum. This hurdle they ignored and walked around.
“Today’s judgement sees them pass the second hurdle, but the battle goes on and I am confident that this campaign will be successful.”
The ruling follows environment secretary Caroline Spelman announcing in November that, following widespread local opposition and news that King’s Lynn and West Norfolk BC had withdrawn its backing for the incinerator, Defra would withhold the release of PFI credits.
At the time Cllr Borrett (Con) said Ms Spelman’s approach would “send shivers down the spine of all other authorities with major waste treatment proposals in the pipeline”.
He said: “I doubt there are many, if any, major infrastructure projects anywhere that could be delivered if Caroline Spelman’s apparent change of approach is repeated elsewhere.
“By her actions, she appears to have thrown a carefully followed process into chaos, and potentially put at risk the delivery of eight similar projects up and down the country earmarked for PFI credits totalling more than £500m.”