Caroline Spelman is to release withheld private finance credits worth £91m to fund a controversial incinerator in Norfolk – a move which could prompt a legal challenge.
Norfolk County Council cabinet member for environment and waste, Bill Borrett, said: “We are pleased the government has decided to support this project, which is of significant strategic importance for the people of Norfolk, and that the Secretary of State is satisfied that it meets her criteria for a grant.
“The grant represents the largest amount of central government funding for a single project that this council will have ever received.
“It will substantially reduce the cost of a proposed new service for dealing with Norfolk residents’ waste, making it excellent value for money – and very good news for the county’s council taxpayers.
“It also reflects the government’s opinion that projects such as this will help the country meet its European landfill diversion targets.”
The environment secretary had withheld the PFI credits to finance the King’s Lynn project last November, as exclusively revealed by MRW, following fierce local opposition.
The £500m Willows Power and Recycling Facility on the outskirts of King’s Lynn was placed on hold while the county council submitted further evidence to demonstrate there was a “broad consensus” in the chosen waste management strategy.
However, there remains substantial opposition from local district councils and campaigners. Local critics said a further legal challenge was likely.
The district council which will host the incinerator, Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk, has set aside £250,000 to fund legal action against the incinerator, according to local reports.
Local Tory MPs Elizabeth Truss, for South West Norfolk, and Henry Bellingham, MP for North West Norfolk, oppose the incinerator, alongside campaign groups and other local district councils such as Norwich City Council.
A Defra spokeswoman said: “The Secretary of State is satisfied that the department’s criteria have been met and has approved Norfolk County Council’s application for Waste Infrastructure Credits. It is now for the council to take the project forward, subject to signing contracts and gaining planning permission.”
More on the incinerator debate in this week’s issue of MRW, left - out on Friday