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Spelman accused of chaos over incinerator delay

Norfolk County Council says the environment secretary’s decision to withhold the release of PFI credits for its incinerator could put at risk other similar projects across the country.

MRW.co.uk exclusively broke the story that Caroline Spelman is withholding support for the project, following fierce local opposition and news that King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council had withdrawn its backing for the incinerator.

The £500m Willows Power and Recycling Facility on the outskirts of King’s Lynn is now on hold.

Source: matt prince

Spelman has asked the county council to submit further evidence to demonstrate that the relevant authorities, the public and interested parties had been consulted and that there was a “broad consensus” in the chosen waste management strategy.

Cabinet member for environment and waste Bill Borrett said Spelman’s approach would “send shivers down the spine of all other authorities with major waste treatment proposals in the pipeline”.

He said: “I doubt there are many, if any, major infrastructure projects anywhere that could be delivered if Caroline Spelman’s apparent change of approach is repeated elsewhere. By her actions, she appears to have thrown a carefully followed process into chaos, and potentially put at risk the delivery of eight similar projects up and down the country earmarked for PFI credits totalling more than £500m.”

The environment secretary wrote to Derek Murphy, leader of the council, asking for further evidence to be submitted, citing concerns about local opposition.

She then advised Murphy: “I am therefore not currently in a position to confirm the provisional allocations of waste infrastructure (WI) credits. I further note that there is a judicial review ongoing against your authority which relates to the award of your waste management contract.

“I am prepared to give you an opportunity to submit additional evidence in relation to the existence of a broad consensus. If that evidence is satisfactory, I would then be in a position to consider the allocation of WI credits.”

Murphy replied, saying that he was “extremely disappointed and surprised” with the news and argued that the county council has provided “ample” evidence.  

A referendum in the local authority area was held in March this year that had a 61% turnout, with 92% voting against the plan. But the council said that an alternative survey carried out by ComRes on behalf of Cory Wheelabrator – due to build and run the facility – found 65% of residents in favour.

Murphy also claimed Spelman has made a “material and very substantial inaccuracy, which we were frankly surprised to see”.

He added: “You state that, at present, you are not in a position to confirm the provisional allocation of PFI credits to Norfolk County Council. In fact, your department has already done so.”

He said the council was “shocked by the “11th hour change of heart”, and accused Spelman of changing the parameters within which authorities have been working.

Readers' comments (1)

  • "Changing the parameters”? Come on Bill! Criterion 6 has been around since 2007. See: http://archive.defra.gov.uk/environment/waste/localauth/funding/pfi/documents/pfi-criteria-aug08.pdf
    What is indeed shocking is that Mr Borrett was unaware of this requirement. After the large amounts of money paid to consultants, one would have hoped that someone, at some point, would have given some serious consideration to all of the Waste PFI criteria.
    The 2007 Criteria for Securing Waste PFI Credits document is explicit:
    "These criteria, which waste projects must meet to be considered for PFI credits, are in addition to the general criteria set out in the Green Book which must be met by all PFI projects. Authorities should also be aware of the Waste Strategy for England 2007..."
    Don't take my word for it Mr Borrett - check the document! Check the date. Then apologise to Caroline for your unfair accusation. (Then ask your advisers why this had not been called to your attention years ago).

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