Tensions mount as PFI credits withheld for Norfolk incinerator

A row has erupted over Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman's decision to withhold PFI credits for Norfolk County Council's proposed incinerator because of concerns over local opposition.

According to Norfolk County Council, it had secured provisional secured waste PFI credits to help offset the cost of the King’s Lynn project (valued at between £500-650m over 25 years) and was expecting confirmation of the final release of the credits.

But it then received a letter from the Environment Secretary requesting more evidence that the proposal had wider support from the community. The council is said to be “shocked” by the sudden change of heart.

Caroline Spelman says she refused to release the grant pending further evidence citing ‘the large volume of objections to the proposal and referencing the local Borough Council’s decision to withdraw from the waste strategy’.

Norfolk County Council’s cabinet member Bill Borrett said the Secretary of State’s decision was “irrational” and would “send shivers down the spine of all other authorities with major waste treatment proposals in the pipeline”.

But one industry observer has accused the council of misrepresenting the evidence “to an alarming degree” – Richard Burton, a consultant who has been opposed to the project, says the claims aren’t justified as the Secretary of State had already written to the council in June stating that further evidence was required to meet the PFI criteria, and that this evidence wasn’t forthcoming.

He also disputed the council’s claims that the project only generated strong local opposition in the borough for which it was proposed, and argued that resistance to the proposals were in fact county-wide.

In June, King’s Lynn & West Norfolk Borough Council withdrew its support from the scheme, after it held a local advisory poll which delivered an overwhelming No vote for the incinerator.

Maxine Perella

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie