Jackie Mulhallen reports on the latest King's Lynn Without Incineration protest.
Supporters of King’s Lynn Without Incineration (KLWIN) turned up at a hearing to protest at plans for a mass burn incinerator at Saddlebow, outside King’s Lynn in west Norfolk.
Friday’s meeting of the Planning Committee of Norwich County Council met to decide whether to grant planning permission. The site is on a flood plain. It is close to farming land, the shellfish beds of the Wash, a Natural Nature Reserve, Roydon Common, and the villages of Saddlebow and St Germans.
Local people are concerned that emissions could cause damage to health and the environment. In a 2011 referendum, 93% of people - that's 65,516 local residents - voted to reject the proposal. King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council is unanimously against it. So are all nine Norfolk MPs.
Not all of the eighty-plus protesters could be accommodated in the Chamber on Friday, so the rest of us went into an adjacent room where we couldn’t see and for a lot of time couldn’t even hear the proceedings. But we could boo, cackle, hiss, shout and clap - and make enough noise to be heard inside.
The Planning Officer gave a long presentation which dismissed all the objections from West Norfolk. His only defence was that waste needed to be disposed of and that incineration was better than landfill. He spoke for over an hour, although he was supposed to have only half that time.
Yet the chair would not allow the Objectors to over-run their allotted three minutes at all, when even one of the Committee suggested that they should have equal time. The chair considered they were lucky to be allowed to speak at all as it ‘wasn’t usual’.
The day before the hearing, the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) placed a holding direction on the council so that any decision will not be confirmed until after the paperwork has been reviewed by the Secretary of State for Communities, Eric Pickles. This has happened because of the unprecedented opposition to the proposal. Councillor Brian Long, Borough of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, sent a message to say that he had received hundreds of emails opposing the incinerator and only two in its favour.
Dr. Pallavi Devulapalli said, ‘I am one of 22 local doctors who have been researching the incidence of cancer, heart attack and birth abnormalities relating to incinerators and we are seriously concerned. Although the Health Protection Agency says that there is no evidence that these will be caused by modern well-run incinerators, they are commissioning a new study’.
The King’s Lynn incinerator will be run by Cory Wheelabrator, a US company with a bad record of polluting the environment in the States. Stan Marmont, who had spent eight years working with an incinerator, spoke. ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t walk, I am not considered fit to fly’, he said, ‘and my family live in Australia and America’. This would make most people weep. The Cory Wheelabrator side laughed.
Richard Burton, an environmental consultant, said that the data cited by Cory Wheelabrator to show that the incinerator had a low carbon footprint was wrong. They had used figures from the Netherlands whereas he had studied landfill sites in Norfolk and the figures were not comparable.
Elaine Oliver said ‘You can’t get planning permission to build a bungalow here, let alone a 280 ft chimney’. More than one speaker mentioned Roydon Common, since although Natural England said there was no evidence that it would be harmed by an incinerator, the Norfolk Wildlife Trust had spent two years researching the effects and they had come to the opposite conclusion.
Councillor Nobbs proposed deferring the decision because of the conflicting evidence, but Councillor Stone said, ‘Oh let’s not waste any more time on it!’ and they voted for the incinerator 9 – 6.
Michael de Whalley, KLWIN, said, ‘I am seriously concerned at the lack of democracy exhibited in these proceedings but I am not despondent. We will keep fighting.’