Tag Archives: King’s Lynn Incinerator

Labour’s Betrayal

Yesterday it was announced that Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, had caved into pressure from Norfolk County Council and the waste industry, granting £91 million of PFI credits for the construction of an incinerator near King’s Lynn. This was despite the necessity for a “broad consensus of support” to be shown before the money could be given and the opposition  of two district councils in Norfolk, 65,516 people and most relevant agencies and authorities opposing the plan.

While depressing, it looked like yet another case of a senior minister ignoring the rhetoric of localism and democracy, and bowing to the wishes of her Conservative colleagues at County Hall. Today, however, the story has taken a rather more sinister turn.

Last week there was jubilation, after the Labour leader of Norwich City Council, Brenda Arthur, wrote to Spelman to re-emphasise the council’s position that it opposed all incineration, anywhere in Norfolk. No one, it was reasoned, could claim there was a “broad consensus of support” if the two largest second tier councils in Norfolk opposed incineration generally, and the Saddlebow plan in particular. For one short week Cllr Arthur was the hero of West Norfolk.

Now though a different picture has emerged. It appears that the letter to Caroline Spelman was only written after menacing letters from the Lib Dem and Green group leaders at County Hall which indicated that if she did not take action they may withhold support from Labour’s minority administration. While this incident is enough to raise questions about Cllr Arthur’s motives, the worst was yet to come.

It is rumoured that her intervention had influenced Defra to such a degree that it was preparing to refuse the application for PFI credits. However, before the final decision was taken Spelman decided to call Arthur and check that her position still stood. Obviously, no one knows exactly what was said, but Arthur was clearly less forceful in person than she was on paper. Whatever she did say apparently gave Defra reason enough to believe that there was enough support for the credits to be granted yesterday.

To be fair, the Labour party, especially at the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk and Norfolk County Council have done a very good job of opposing the incinerator, in conjunction with Lib Dems and Greens. But to think a senior Labour councillor had such a great opportunity to end the whole saga once and for all is, to say the least, disheartening. To have done so while convincing Norfolk and the two parties she relies on for a majority that she was in fact doing the opposite is worse still. We can only hope that that one phone call doesn’t come back to haunt us.

Note: I have no hard evidence to support this post other than what I have been told by various different sources. It does, however, come from people I trust and has an undeniable ring of truth.

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What Lib Dems have done for Norfolk

I don’t often write these kinds of self-congratulatory posts, but Norfolk Lib Dems have been going through a tough time recently.  Not only did we lose a by-election in Lakenham, but two of our county councillors have defected to the Conservatives (not much of a loss in either case, but two less Lib Dems anyhow). So, I thought I would write a quick piece on what good Lib Dems are doing for people across the county.

The most obvious example of a Lib Dem policy carried into government, and now helping to make a real difference is the pupil premium. This year over 16,000 of the poorest Norfolk pupils will receive a total £7.6 million to help with their education. To give just one example, Great Yarmouth High School, which serves one of the most deprived districts in the county, will get £157,380 for this year alone.

Another key area where Lib Dems have been able to have a big impact is on the local economy, especially important with the low growth and demand that is dominating our economy. In October Nick Clegg announced a £10.4 million grant through the Regional Growth Fund for Lotus Engineering, a local company based in Hethel, near Norwich. They hope to build a second factory and car assembly  line, which could create 1200 jobs over five years.

And, of course, local Lib Dems are still leading opposition to the King’s Lynn incinerator that nobody wants, nobody needs and nobody can afford. It might not all be plain sailing, but at least Lib Dems, in government and locally, are making a real difference for the people of Norfolk.


What Cory Wheelabrator did next

It’s not really surprising that Cory Wheelabrator  are a little bit desperate. 93% said no to the King’s Lynn incinerator in a West Norfolk referendum. 97% said no in the Norfolk-wide planning consultation, including the majority of parish councils that responded. 22 local doctors, the Environment Agency,  Natural England,the Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Agency, the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and the Wash Estuary Strategy Group have all raised serous concerns or objected to the plan. However, their latest ploy really is something.

Yesterday, there were a few reports that a survey team was going door-to-door asking questions about the incinerator. One person they asked was allowed to see, and write down, what was on the survey paper, which has since been forwarded to me. Here it is;

1) The Willows Energy-from-Waste plant is a proposed development on the Saddlebow Industrial Estate, to the South of King’s Lynn , that will deal the bulk of non-recycled household waste in Norfolk . Have you heard of the Willows?
(Yes, No, Don’t Know)

2) If Yes, …. how did you hear about it?
3) In general terms, do you think it is right for waste left after reuse and recycling in Norfolk to be safely burnt, to produce energy, rather than being landfilled?
( Yes, No, Don’t Know)

4) Do you have any particular areas of concern about the Willows proposals, or any topics on which you would like more information?

5) Which of the following statements best describes your opinion about the Willows proposals?
(I support; I support this proposal but have some reservations; I have some concerns about the proposal; I oppose the proposal; I have no strong feelings about this proposal).

6) Do you have further questions or comments to add?

7) If supportive in answer to Question 5 – Would you be interested in submitting your views to the Council or in receiving more information updates from us? (If YES, collect contact details including email and telephone number).

There are couple of points to be made here. Firstly, nowhere does it mention the word “incinerator”, which is what this proposal is known as by most people. I wonder how many won’t have a clue what the survey means because of this choice of words, and therefore not answer as they would want to? In addition, the questions are clearly enticing people to say they support incineration, particularly Question 3 which gives only the option of landfill or incineration, and makes it sound as if waste is already recycled as much as possible.

Most importantly, though, is Question 7, which asks only people who support the incinerator whether they might be interested in writing to Norfolk County Council or getting updates from Cory Wheelabrator. In other words, they are trying to get as many people as they can to tell NCC that they support the incinerator. Not only is this obviously an act of desperation because practically nobody supports the plan, but personally I also think it’s disgusting that part-way through the planning process the applicant is essentially paying for people to go out and find who supports the idea, so they can get them to write in. We can only hope that people see this for what it is; a clever ploy by Cory Wheelabrator.

UPDATE: The survey is being carried out by a company calledhttps://jonaholiver.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=90&action=edit Bellenden, which specialises in political, planning and corporate communications, who have been hired by Cory Wheelabrator. Perhaps surprisingly, as far as I can see (and I have not yet verified this), Bellenden is not a member of the British Polling Council. Of even greater interest, however, is that Norfolk County Council has hired Bellenden as a consultant on campaigns previously, most notably regarding the dualling of the A11. In fact, Daniel Cox, the ex-leader of NCC gave a glowing appraisal of the company saying

“By working together, we have achieved a stunning victory to bring forward completion of the dualling of the A11 by 18 months. Bellenden’s advice and engagement with decision makers in Westminster has been an important part in our success.”

However, they don’t seem to have been involved in this latest act.


Did Norfolk County Council break its constitution?

If you’re wondering what I’m referring to, you can read the full story of what happened yesterday on my last blog. Basically, the Lib Dems walked out of full council at County Hall because of the disgraceful conduct of the meeting, and the way they were not allowed to reply to a closure motion on their own motion or ask points of order. However, Norfolk County Council appears to believe that this was all constitutional and that nothing was wrong with the meeting. Having looked through the constitution I have to disagree. As far as I can see yesterday’s meeting was a serious breach of the constitution. I lay out why below.

  • In yesterday’s meeting the Chair refused to take points of order from Labour, Lib Dem and Green councillors. However, Appendix 9 12.12 of the NCC constitution states;

“A member may raise a point of order at any time. The chairman will hear them immediately.”

  • Paul Morse, the Lib Dem group leader and proposer of the original motion was only allowed to get a few sentences into his introduction before he was interrupted by the closure motion, but Appendix 9 12.4 is clear that;

“Speeches must be directed to the question under discussion or to a personal explanation or point of order. No speech may exceed 5 minutes without the consent of the chairman”

  • Furthermore, the closure motion was introduced before Cllr. Morse had finished his speech, despite the fact that Appendix 9 12.11 a) says that;

“A member may move, without comment, the following motions at the end of a speech of another member”

  • Once the closure motion was put Cllr. Morse was not even allowed a right of reply, even though Appendix 9 12.11 b) states that;

“If a motion to proceed to next business is seconded and the chairman thinks the item has been sufficiently discussed, he or she will give the mover of the original motion a right of reply and then put the procedural motion to the vote.”

That’s four points where I believe that the Norfolk County Council constitution was breached. How can the decisions the council took be legitimate when they were so profoundly against the constitution? They can’t and that’s why I hope as many people as possible will make formal objections to NCC, asking for the decision to be struck down and the motion heard again.  This is no way to run a county, and the people of Norfolk must hold their representatives to account.


The Incinerator Paradox

The King’s Lynn incinerator is a sufficiently controversial subject that I would imagine that most people in West Norfolk have formed some opinion about whether it should be built or not. 65,516 have made their views very clear indeed. Don’t worry if you haven’t though because, whether you realise it or not, you’ve already taken sides. Both of them in fact.

Confused? Let me explain. One of the ways that the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk has come up with to fight the plan is the allocation of around £150,000 for legal fees. It is expected that this would be used at some point in the future for a judicial review against the way Norfolk County Council has dealt with the whole saga. So far so simple. However, any legal action would be taken against the county council, who would have to set aside money for their own legal costs. NCC is already fighting a separate application for a judicial review from the campaigner Michael de Whalley. The costs of the two will probably spiral into the hundreds of thousands, and may even reach into the millions. And of course, both of these will be funded by the taxpayers of Norfolk.

So every West Norfolk taxpayer is paying for, and therefore supporting, both sides. You see what I mean about a paradox. But there is a serious point here. What could be more absurd than our taxes  being squandered in contrary legal challenges that no one really wants, and shouldn’t even be needed, just because Norfolk County Council refuses to listen to the democratically expressed views of West Norfolk? Particularly at a time of deep cuts to vital services, it has to be asked why the county council won’t just do the decent thing and scrap the whole sorry idea.