Councillors on Norfolk County Council are to decide on whether to terminate its contract with Cory Wheelabrator to build an energy from waste plant in King’s Lynn.
A meeting will be held on 7 April of the council’s cabinet to consider ending the contract on the basis that the plant has failed to get planning permission.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles called in the planning application in August 2012, and councillors are viewing his failure to produce a decision on whether the plant can progress within the timetable set by him as confirmation that the permission will not be granted. Council officials argue that the scheme’s value for money reduce with each week’s delay as costs rise.
This delay also comes on top of the Government’s decision last November to withdraw a £169 million Waste Infrastructure Grant.
According to Norfolk, proposed savings of £250 million to Norfolk taxpayers over a 23-year period will have disappeared. The Council also said that Cory Wheelabrator is seeking an increase in the capped costs of termination through planning failure and council advisors argue that the balance of risk is now tipped against taxpayers.
Norfolk County Council leader George Nobbs said: “When the council in October voted for continuation of the contract, that was on the basis that it still represented good value for money. However, that was based upon accepting the Secretary of State at his word when he said he would give a decision on the Planning Inquiry ‘on or before 14 January’. Mr Pickles’ decision – or rather lack of it – has been the real game changer, and has made a nonsense of Government rhetoric about speedier decisions on major infrastructure projects.
“What has been even more damaging has been his subsequent point-blank refusal to give us any idea of when, if ever, he might make a decision. There has been a widespread view in informed political circles that this delay has been a political decision and that a no answer will come ‘this side of the election’.
“The result has been that we are being asked to gamble with Norfolk County Council’s financial future, and that we will not do.”
Earlier this month, the Green Investment Bank committed £51 million to the project.
A £30 million cost of terminating the contract will come from the council’s reserves.