King's Lynn incinerator opponents choose review experts

Artist's impression of waste incinerator
Image caption The government is expected to rule on planning permission by winter 2013-14

Opponents of a proposed incinerator will be asked to choose two independent experts to review the scheme.

Norfolk County Council has agreed legal and financial advisers should conduct detailed investigations into the proposed incinerator at King's Lynn.

The £500m project was proposed by the council but has been put in jeopardy by a change of control at County Hall.

The council said opponents would be able to choose two "suitably-qualified" experts to conduct reviews.

The decision was made at the first meeting of the council's new cabinet where members unanimously agreed to accept the recommendations of a cabinet scrutiny meeting.

'Shrouded in secrecy'

Labour council leader George Nobbs said: "It is vital that independent reports are commissioned to ensure councillors are in possession of the fullest possible information before taking a final decision.

"But with so many people believing that this project has been shrouded in secrecy, we feel it is only right that they themselves are able to play a part in choosing the person who will conduct the review, so that there can be no question about their autonomy."

He said a "respected independent body" would be asked to put forward the names of three QCs to examine legal aspects of the scheme, and the district auditor would be asked to recommend three financial bodies.

Opponents of the scheme would then be able to choose one expert from each list.

Mr Nobbs said: "Commissioning these independent reviews is going to involve a lot extra cost to the Norfolk taxpayer but that is the will of the council's cabinet scrutiny committee and we will carry it out.

"In the final analysis, this is the price we have to pay in order to have open and transparent decision making and if it enables the council to satisfy its critics on a matter which has bedevilled it for so long, and for Norfolk to move on, it will, in the long run, be well worth it."

Last month a council report revealed penalties for pulling out of the contract to build the plant could reach up to £90m.

The results of a public inquiry into the project ended in May and a decision on whether to grant planning permission is expected by autumn or winter.

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