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Norfolk in multi-million-pound settlement over King’s Lynn project

Norfolk County Council has completed paying the full £33.7m settlement on its abandoned energy-from-waste project, a move the council leader described as an “act of closure in a sad and sorry saga”.

The local authority has made a final payment of nearly £5.9m to Willows Power and Recycling Limited, the joint venture between Cory Environmental and Wheelabrator Technologies that in 2012 was awarded a PFI contract to develop the King’s Lynn EfW plant.

The council pulled out of the scheme in May 2014 as it considered it would not be able to reach financial close before a contract deadline.

This was due to a delayed decision on planning permission by community secretary Eric Pickles.

After the termination, Willows Power and Recycling was entitled to receive compensation for sums it had incurred in developing the project.

George Nobbs,  leader of the council, said he welcomed the certainty that the settlement agreement had brought.

“This is a significant act of closure in a sad and sorry saga which was not of my administration’s making or choice. I very much welcome the fact that this now finally removes any risk of further costs being incurred in the future.

“However, it has been a salutary lesson of how not to do things. It is a matter of deep regret to me that this matter has caused so much damage to relations within our County and I hope that today we can all turn to a new page.”

The authority is still awaiting the conclusion of a report by a former senior councillor into how Norfolk entered the contract, how the decision to terminate it was reached and the role of external political involvement.

Terms of reference were announced in May and the deadline for evidence was 16 June.

An independent report in December 2013 by a QC found no reasons to hold officers to account nor any suggestion that the then cabinet exceeded its authority in backing the contract.

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