December 20 2014 Latest news:
Exclusive by Paul Geater, Local government correspondent
Friday, February 14, 2014
Waste from Norfolk could be sent to Suffolk to be burned at the county’s new incinerator, the East Anglian Daily Times can reveal today.
The facility – or Energy from Waste plant – is nearing completion at Great Blakenham on the outskirts of Ipswich.
It is due to start operating during the summer and is expected to be able to handle all the county’s non-recyclable waste and have capacity to spare.
Now the county councillor with responsibility for the environment and planning, Richard Smith, has revealed that Suffolk is in talks to take some of Norfolk’s waste at the plant.
The leader of Norfolk County Council, George Nobbs, has confirmed that his authority is talking about sending 30,000 tonnes of waste a year to Blakenham for a limited period.
The news will add another twist to what has been the most toxic political debate in the region over the last few years – the proposed construction of an incinerator for Norfolk at Kings Lynn,
Mr Smith revealed that the two counties were in negotiations during yesterday’s budget-setting council meeting at Endeavour House in Ipswich.
When asked later about the talks he said: “I cannot say any more. It is an early stage.”
The incinerator at Blakenham is being built by Sita UK in partnership with the county council. Sita UK will operate the plant for 25 years.
During that time Suffolk is committed to providing 170,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste a year to the plant. That is a similar amount to that currently sent to landfill from the county – but the amount produced in Suffolk is expected to fall as recycling rates increase.
The capacity of the plant is 269,000 tonnes a year and Sita UK is working with the county to find more sources of waste.
Test burning is due to start at Blakenham during the first half of this year, and the plant is expected to become fully operational by the autumn.
The deal with Norfolk could be followed up with similar deals with other local authorities or commercial businesses which need to dispose of waste.
Once the £180 million plant is open it should be able to generate enough electricity to power all the homes in Lowestoft – and should save Suffolk County Council £8 million a year in landfill taxes.
George Nobbs, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “It is true we have had some informal talks with Suffolk and their contractors over dealing with 30,000 tonnes of waste.
“We have a contract which comes to an end in July and our officers have been talking to neighbours with a view to taking some of that waste at the end of that contract.
“It would only be temporary. It is in no way an alternative to the long-term solution.”
Mr Nobbs insisted that he was not embarrassed that a revelation about waste - which is one of the biggest political hot potatoes in Norfolk - had been made at a Suffolk County Council meeting, rather than at his own council.
He said: “In an ideal world I would have like this announcement to have come from Norfolk County Council and it seems someone from Suffolk has jumped the gun.
“But perhaps it is sign of the growing closeness of the relationship we have forged with Suffolk County Council that they felt able to talk about it.”
The county council says a solution is needed because a contract which sees waste put into landfill at Aldeby, near Beccles, is drawing to a close, with the tip on the brink of being filled.
The council confirmed, if a deal is struck with Suffolk to deal with the waste, lorries would be used to take the rubbish to the incinerator.
With Norfolk having to deal with 210,000 tonnes a year and the King’s Lynn incinerator due to take 170,000 tonnes a year, the council is keen to stress not all the county’s waste could be sent to Blakenham.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles has yet to make a decision on whether to allow planning permission for the £596m incinerator, while the government cancelled waste credits which would have been worth £169m during the lifetime of the contract with Anglo-US consortium Cory Wheelabrator.