Scrapping controversial plans for an incinerator could cost Norfolk County Council up to £90m, it has been revealed.
The costs of terminating the 25-year residual waste contract with Cory Wheelabrator are set out in a report to the Council’s Cabinet Scrutiny Committee, and are to be discussed next month.
It says that if the contract to build an energy from waste (EfW) plant at the Willows, Saddlebow, near King’s Lynn is terminated because planning permission is refused, the potential costs include a compensation payment to the contractor of up to £20.3m.
Up to £13m would also be added from interest and exchange rate costs, as well as an early repayment of public inquiry costs.
However, if the council withdrew from the contract for other reasons the costs would be significantly higher, with the report citing as a “useful indication” the £80m-£90m cost for Cornwall Council when it considered abandoning a similar scheme.
The contract, which has been reviewed by Defra and the Treasury, also includes £169m from the Government’s Waste Infrastructure Grant. It is unlikely that the grant would be given for an alternative waste solution.
The figures from the report have emerged following the election of Labour councillor George Nobbs as council leader at an extraordinary council meeting last week.
The council also voted to change the local authority’s cabinet structure into a committee system. Under the current cabinet system most decisions are made by a cabinet of up to 10 members of the controlling political grouping. Under a committee system decisions are made by all-party committees with memberships reflecting the overall political makeup of the council. Any new system would take effect from next May.
Nobbs will lead a coalition of Labour, Lib Dems and UKIP after members failed to elect a leader following the council elections on 2 May, which resulted in the ruling Conservative party losing its majority.
Changes in the balance of power at the local authority have sparked speculation that the EfW scheme could be scrapped by the new council. UKIP, now the second largest party in the council after winning 15 seats, has vowed to fight the incinerator plans.
A public inquiry into the proposals ended two weeks ago with the decision by the Secretary of State Eric Pickles due around the end of the year.