King's Lynn incinerator: £33.7m paid to developer

Artist's impression of waste incinerator Image copyright Other
Image caption The incinerator scheme near King's Lynn faced widespread opposition

A county council that abandoned plans for a £500m incinerator has paid a £33.7m settlement to the developer that would have built the plant.

Norfolk County Council's leader said the final payment brought to an end the "sad and sorry saga" of a project started by a previous administration.

Developer Willows Power said it was contractually entitled to the money.

The council's plan for The Willows incinerator at King's Lynn was first given permission in 2012.

But it faced widespread opposition from MPs, local councils and residents.

Incinerator timeline

•March 2011: 92% of residents in a west Norfolk referendum object to the incinerator plans

•June 2011: Developer Cory Wheelabrator submits planning application to Norfolk County Council

•December 2011: Campaigners lose a bid for a judicial review over NCC's backing of the plant at the High Court

•January 2012: Plant awarded £91m in PFI credits by Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman

•February/March 2012: Environment Agency and Natural England lift final concerns about incinerator

•June 2012: County council planners advised to approve burner, but the scheme is called in by the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles

•May 2013: Conservatives lose control of county council and termination cost estimated at £90m

•April 2014: deal struck to terminate project at cost of £33.7m

The scheme was spearheaded by the Conservative administration of the council to burn waste from across Norfolk to generate energy and reduce the need for landfill sites.

But the party lost control of the authority in 2013 and the county council is now run by Labour, the Liberal Democrats and UKIP supported by the Greens.

Councillors in April voted to withdraw from the scheme following delays in obtaining planning permission, due to the scheme being called-in by the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The scheme was being looked at by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles when the council decided to terminate it

Tom McCabe, interim executive director of community services at the council, said: "We built up a reserve in order to pay the substantial costs of terminating the contract and we have now made a final settlement in line with that.

"The costs associated with ending the contract are significant and we have had to satisfy ourselves that they are justifiable, which is why this process has taken some time."

Council leader George Nobbs said: "This is a significant act of closure in a sad and sorry saga which was not of my administration's making or choice.

"I very much welcome the fact that this now finally removes any risk of further costs being incurred in the future. However, it has been a salutary lesson of how not to do things."

Cory Wheelabrator, the parent company consortium overseeing the Willows development, said in a statement: "As a result of the termination, Willows was contractually entitled to payment by Norfolk of compensation for sums it had incurred in developing the project.

"Norfolk (County Council) and Willows have been in discussion about the calculation of that compensation and have reached agreement in relation to the calculation and payment of the compensation in accordance with the terms of the contract."

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