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Fenland District Council

Fenland District Council loses legal challenge to halt £450m Wisbech incinerator

Eve of General Election blow for Steve Barclay

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Fenland District Council has lost its fight to stop a £450m incinerator being built in Wisbech. The council conceded defeat tonight after admitting it had been told its application for a judicial review had been refused.

Only hours earlier the council refused to comment – probably because of a fear of breaching electoral law on political decision making – but clearly reflected and decided an announcement was within the guidelines.

In a statement the council said it was “extremely disappointed with the decision to refuse our application for judicial review on the Medworth Energy from Waste development.

“Given the judge’s recognition that there were several deficiencies in the Secretary of State’s decision to approve the incinerator, the council was clearly justified in pursuing an application for judicial review”.

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The statement added: “The council is now giving careful thought to the judge’s reasons for the refusal and is taking further expert legal advice as to potential next steps and looking at all available options.”

Pressure to release a statement followed CambsNews publication of information from a respected European and international website for the waste and bioenergy industry.

It reported earlier today that Fenland District Council had lost its legal challenge to halt a £400m waste incinerator from being built in Wisbech. ENDS Waste&Bioenergy (EWB) is a leading independent website and claims that the German firm MVV is free to begin work on its Wisbech incinerator.

“Unfortunately, we are unable to make any comment at this time,” a spokesperson for Fenland District Council told CambsNews earlier when we asked for confirmation. 

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90 minutes came the revised statement confirming its failure.

The news will be a blow to Steve Barclay, the former Environment Minister, and former MP for NE Cambs, as he heads into the General Election tomorrow to defend his NE Cambs seat which includes Wisbech where the incinerator is to be built.

MP Steve Barclay on a site visit in 2020 to Algores Way, Wisbech. After the visit he said: ‘I remain strongly opposed to the proposals to build a waste incinerator in Wisbech. I have already flagged my concern to the relevant Minister and will continue to outline the problems with this scheme’

MP Steve Barclay on a site visit in 2020 to Algores Way, Wisbech. After the visit he said: ‘I remain strongly opposed to the proposals to build a waste incinerator in Wisbech. I have already flagged my concern to the relevant Minister and will continue to outline the problems with this scheme’

EWB says “a source familiar with the process” had confirmed to them that Fenland Council’s attempted judicial review has ended in failure.

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“As a result, the facility, which is being developed by MVV, is now free to move ahead to construction and process up to 625,600 tonnes a year, although MVV says it plans to process about 523,500t/yr,” says EWB.

“It will also have capacities of 60MWe (gross) and 55MWe (net) as well as 50MWth.”

Mr Barclay said little about the incinerator during the election campaign apart from an opening shot on June 11.

He said then that “today the Conservative manifesto pledged to prevent new waste incinerators being built, including those with recent permit approvals, revoking those where substantial construction has not taken place.

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“This would mean the proposed Wisbech incinerator would not go ahead”.

Ironically, he also pledged to continue “supporting the ongoing judicial review process and continuing to fight the appalling proposals with every fibre of my being”.

Campaigner Ginny Bucknor rallied, campaigned, and fought with her group WisWIN – Wisbech Without Incineration – to halt the project. PHOTO: Terry Harris

Campaigner Ginny Bucknor rallied, campaigned, and fought with her group WisWIN – Wisbech Without Incineration – to halt the project. PHOTO: Terry Harris

And deflecting the blame from the Conservative government, which had agreed for the incinerator to go ahead, he claimed “the Labour and Lib Dem candidates parachuted in to North East Cambridgeshire from Luton and Letchworth have failed to say they oppose the project.

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“As a Wisbech resident myself, I share the community’s anger and I will do everything I can to stop this eyesore from ever seeing the light of day”.

Too little, too late if EWB’s report is proven to be accurate.

Instead of attacking his own Government, Mr Barclay had earlier this year turned on Labour for alleging trying to undermine his opposition to the incinerator.

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“Labour has responded by trying to score political points at Westminster, demanding an investigation into my efforts to stand up for local people,” he said.

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WisWIN took their protest to Parliament and to meet MP Steve Barclay

WisWIN took their protest to Parliament and to meet MP Steve Barclay

“This fight is far from over and I remain committed to campaigning to block this threatened blight on our community with every fibre of my being.”

MVV managing director Paul Carey has been optimistic for some time that the scheme will go ahead, telling the BBC earlier this year he was “clearly pleased” with the decision and expects building to begin on the Algores Way site later this year.

Paul Carey

Paul Carey

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“We want to assure the local community that we will be a good neighbour as we build and operate the new facility, as we have already demonstrated at our facilities in Plymouth and Dundee,” he said.

Campaign group WisWIN believes the only hope is for an incoming Government, now expected to be Labour, to accept the view of the Parliamentary Climate Change Committee, UKWIN and others that the UK already has over-capacity so could stop all further incinerator plans.

Virginia Bucknor of WisWIN said: “So we have to keep on campaigning and fighting for the right outcome.”

However, MVV has a water tight legal agreement, with permission confirmed by the Planning Inspectorate, and that would be a dilemma for any incoming Government.

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Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment Steve Reed spoke about the incinerator during a visit to Peterborough in April.

Mr Reed began by explaining that it was vital that “we need to look at how we reduce waste, so we don’t have to incinerate so much as it is a key starting point.

“But I don’t think it’s for a government minister to take decisions about every individual case”.

He told CambsNews: “You have to look at it case by case.

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“There’s a process of consultation and engagement with local populations that should happen before those decisions are taken and that’s as it should be.

“My concern about what Steve Barclay has done or has tried to do is that he has abused his position as Secretary of State to try and prop up the collapsing vote in his own constituency for party political benefit.

“Now that may well be unlawful, and it may well be a breach of the ministerial code and there will be consequences for him to face if either of those things have happened.”.

The shadow minister added: “So what we’re calling for is a proper investigation into Steve Barclay’s behaviour, who he talked to, who he tried to persuade, which other ministers he’s tried to collude with to cover his tracks potentially so that we can get to the bottom of this.

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“No minister is allowed to abuse the system for their own personal gain.”

Mr Bucknor posted to her WisWIN group: “A judge has not supported Fenland’s request for a Judicial Review.

“However I have always believed we have one last chance. If we have a Labour Government after tomorrow’s General Election, we will seek to meet with the new Secretary of State and call for a moratorium on all incinerators until a review has been held to consider whether we already have over capacity – as promised by the previous Govt and not undertaken.

“So everyone, please don’t lose heart.”

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