The Environmental Services Association (ESA) has said the environment secretary’s intervention in the Norfolk incinerator case is a “deeply misguided step” with “damaging and far-reaching implications”.
The Willows Power and Recycling Centre near King’s Lynn, was confirmed as being included on Defra’s PFI provisional approval list following a Treasury review of value for money earlier this year.
But Caroline Spelman wrote to Norfolk County Council on 7 November saying she would be withholding the PFI credits until it had submitted more evidence to support the plan.
The ESA argued that the intervention could make it even more difficult for large waste projects to get funding from the banks.
Spelman listed the large volume of local opposition as a concern, as well as the fact that King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council withdrew their support from county’s waste management strategy. Cory Environmental and Wheelabrator Technologies were to build and operate the plant.
ESA director of policy Matthew Farrow (pictured) said: “This is a deeply misguided step.
“Barely a fortnight after the prime minister spoke of the urgent need to get infrastructure projects moving, Caroline Spelman has threatened to withhold the release of PFI credits from an important scheme that was fully in line with her own department’s Waste Review.
“The Government is trying to have it both ways. But at a time when banks will only finance waste management projects where the risks are manageable, this decision could have damaging and far-reaching implications.”
He acknowledged that no major infrastructure project received universal public support but argued that waste management companies had to feel confident that if a development was part of a coherent waste management strategy agreed by a local authority, used technology approved by the regulators and met planning requirements, then it would be able to proceed.
“If firms do not have this confidence, then the Government’s intention to divert waste out of landfill starts to look far-fetched. This also has implications across other parts of the Government, and one wonders what Spelman’s Cabinet colleagues will make of it.”