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Norfolk to pull plug on King’s Lynn EfW

Norfolk County Council is set to withdraw from its contract with Cory Wheelabrator to build an energy-from-waste (EfW) facility and faces compensation costs of £30m.

A report drafted by council officers said the failure of communities secretary Eric Pickles to rule on planning permission for the scheme had increased the financial risk to the authority to an unacceptable level.

Pickles was supposed to have made his decision on or before 14 January, but has so far remained silent.

If the council’s cabinet committee approves the report’s recommendations on 7 April the project will formally be abandoned.

Council leader George Nobbs (Lab), said: “The officers’ recommendation is clear and unambiguous, and it is my intention, after listening to the views of the whole council, to recommend that cabinet acts upon that advice.

“Mr Pickles’ decision - or rather the total lack of it - has been the real game-changer, and has made a nonsense of Government rhetoric about speedier decisions on major infrastructure projects.

“What has been even more damaging has been his subsequent point-blank refusal to give us any idea of when, if ever, he might make a decision. There has been widespread view in informed political quarters that this delay has been a political decision and that no answer will come ‘this side of the election’.

“The result has been that we are being asked to gamble with Norfolk County Council’s financial future, and that I will not do.”

A council statement read: “With contractors Cory Wheelabrator now seeking a substantial increase in the capped costs of termination through planning failure - and in the absence of any ministerial decision on the horizon - officers are advising that the balance of risk is now tipped against Norfolk’s taxpayers and terminating the contract is the most sensible decision to take.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “This is a complex planning application which is being carefully considered with due process, following an immense number of representations, including numerous post-inquiry representations.

“A decision will be made in due course.”

The council estimates the daily cost of the continuing delay by Pickles is around £140,000.

It said: “This is because the cost is rising and the end date of the contract remains fixed, so each day’s delay shortens the period over which payback and value for money is calculated.”

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