Cory Wheelabrator withdraws plans for Norfolk incinerator

Cory Wheelabrator withdraws plans for Norfolk incinerator

Plans to build an incinerator at The Willows Business Park in Kings Lynn, Norfolk, have been withdrawn by project developers Cory Environmental Management and Wheelabrator Technologies Incorporated, following the termination of the consortium’s waste contract.

The Willows Power & Recycling Centre has had a beleaguered history, after the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) withdrew £91 million (or £169 million over 25 years) of Private Finance Initiative funding (PFI) from the project and Norfolk County Council’s (NCC) cabinet unanimously voted to abandon its waste contract with Cory Wheelabrator following planning delays.

Planning background

Despite NCC granting planning permission to Cory Wheelabrator in June 2012, the plans were called in for public inquiry after the Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk wrote to Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles claiming that the council had ignored the fact that 65,000 local residents were against the proposal.

However a final decision on the plant’s future was repeatedly delayed (a decision was expected in January 2014, but no such announcement has yet been made), costing the council £140,000 a day.

As Pickles had not revealed to the council when a decision would be made, NCC decided in April 2014 that breaking its contract earlier, rather than later, would protect it from future costs.

It had to pay more than £30 million (£20.3 million of capped compensation to Cory Wheelabrator, as well as public inquiry costs of £1.6 million, and exchange rate and interest rate related costs of £8.36 million) as a result of breaking its contract.

These factors, along with NCC’s December 2014 decision to disallow the land at The Willows Business Park to be sold to developers wishing to build incinerators (in the hope that residual waste will be processed further up the waste hierarchy), have led Cory Wheelabrator to withdraw its plans for the project.

A spokesperson for Cory Wheelabrator confirmed that the two companies have ‘jointly withdrawn’ the planning application for the Willows Power & Recycling Centre, and said that all further queries relating to the Willows site should be directed to the landowner, Norfolk County Council.

There will be no incinerator at The Willows’

Toby Coke, Chairman of NCC’s Environment, Development & Transport Committee, said: “Cory Wheelabrator’s decision to withdraw the application has removed any lingering uncertainty about the future of The Willows site.

“The contract with Cory Wheelabrator had already ended, but withdrawal of the application underlines what the County Council had already decided: There will be no incinerator at The Willows. 

“This has been a long and costly episode for Norfolk, and we still have to find sustainable waste disposal solutions that do not involve incineration. For that reason the County Council will be retaining the land, but any other facility proposed for the site must be higher up the waste stream than incineration.” 

George Nobbs, Leader of Norfolk County Council, added: “This decision has been entirely a matter of Cory Wheelabrator to make. It is ironic that Eric Pickles has, even now, failed to publish the Inspector’s report of his own Planning Inquiry, which has cost the Norfolk taxpayer millions.” 

Currently, 40,000 tonnes per year of Norfolk’s residual waste is being sent for processing at SITA UK’s Great Blakenham EfW plant under a two-year agreement with Suffolk County Council.

Find out more about the Willows Power & Recycling Centre.

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