King's Lynn waste incinerator plan under fire in Commons

 
Drawing of incinerator Artist's impression of the proposed incinerator

It's not every day that a Conservative MP will tear into his local Conservative county council.

But then it's not every day that you get a row like the the plan for a waste incinerator at King's Lynn.

As we've reported before, this is an issue that's divided the Conservative Party in Norfolk.

There have been acrimonious exchanges between the local district council and the county council.

Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy has been reported (twice) to the standards committee and has now decided to stand down while he defends himself.

There was a strong turnout for referendum on the plan which was immediately dismissed.

The controversy cost the Tories dearly in last year's local elections and it could do so again later in the year - and now Conservative MPs from Norfolk are holding debates in parliament to complain about the county council's actions.

Local people 'ignored'

"It is wrong for a local authority to ride roughshod over local people when local people have made their views crystal clear," said Henry Bellingham, MP for King's Lynn and West Norfolk.

"Localism often requires difficult and tough decisions, but democracy is ill-served if consultation takes place but its findings are ignored, particularly when they are as overwhelming as in this case," said Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman.

Other MPs from the county nodded in agreement.

Start Quote

It is wrong for a local authority to ride roughshod over local people when local people have made their views crystal clear”

End Quote Henry Bellingham MP (Con) King's Lynn and West Norfolk

The proposed incinerator would burn 250,000 tonnes of waste, provide power for the local community and create 200 jobs. But Mr Bellingham finds a lot wrong with the plan.

"The county council couldn't have picked a more unsuitable site," he told the debate. "It is upwind of Norfolk's third largest community and the internationally renowned Wash."

Support for waste incineration was rapidly diminishing around the world, he claimed. He was also worried the contract did not represent value for money, there could be a risk to health and the uncertainty was blighting the local community.

But his biggest anger was reserved for the developers and the county council who had ignored the results of a local referendum in which nearly 93% of people voted against the plans.

"65,516 people voted no on a turn out of 61.3%," he said. "Compared with the recent Police and Crime Commissioner elections, when the turnout was around 12%, that must have been one of the most decisive results in British electoral history.

Strength of feeling

"What I am saying to Norfolk County Council is please think again ... why not sit down and talk to local MPs - and to the borough council of King' Lynn and West Norfolk - and look for an alternative solution that could command public support?"

Because the matter is now in the hands of the planning inspector with the final decision being made by the Secretary of State, the Communities Minister Nick Boles couldn't say much by way of reply.

But he noted that a number of MPs from Norfolk had turned up to the debate, a sign of the strength of feeling on the issue.

He also congratulated Norfolk County Council on having a plan for waste but said he always preferred it if the plan had the support of local people.

After the Prime Minister's comments that he hoped planners would listen to local people, Mr Bellingham and his colleagues hope this is another sign that things are moving their way.

 
Deborah McGurran, Political editor, East of England Article written by Deborah McGurran Deborah McGurran Political editor, East of England

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