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Council seeks legal advice on fighting the decision to allow Wisbech incinerator

Fenland District Council voted unanimously to seek legal advice on a potential challenge to the Secretary of State's decision to allow Wisbech incinerator to be built.

Fenland Hall

The council will seek legal advice on whether there are grounds for a judicial review to be sought to overturn the decision, and the likelihood that a judicial review would be successful.

Update on this issue at: Council putting 'every effort' into incinerator fight

At the meeting, Cllr Chris Boden, leader of the council, warned that it was not guaranteed that legal advisors would say it is prudent to pursue judicial review.

But added: "If there is any reasonable possibility at all that we can manage to get this decision changed we owe it, not just to the people of Wisbech I have to say, but to the people of Fenland as a whole, we owe it to them to take that opportunity."

The Medworth CHP Ltd energy from waste combined heat and power facility at Algores Industrial Estate in Wisbech was given the go ahead by Secretary of State for the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero Clare Coutinho MP on February 20th despite widespread opposition in and around Fenland.

The incinerator was opposed by Fenland District Council, Wisbech Town Council, Cambridgeshire County Council, Norfolk County Council, and the Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk, as well as local action groups and hundreds of residents because of its scale and potential negative impacts on residents. 

The Secretary of State's decision cannot be appealed but there may be a chance to challenge it at judicial review.

On Tuesday, February 27, the Planning Inspectorate's website confirmed that the Secretary of State's decision does stand after a period of it being removed for "clarification."

Cllr Steve Tierney, district councillor for Wisbech South, put forward the motion to seek legal advice on the possibility of pursuing judicial review at Monday's Fenland District Council full council meeting.

In full, the motion said:

"Notification was received last week that Claire Coutinho MP, the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, has granted development consent for the proposal by MVV Environment to build a massive waste-to-energy incinerator on the Algores Industrial Estate in Wisbech, despite the overwhelming opposition of local residents, councillors and councils.

"This decision is a slap in the face for the local democratic process and has resulted in real fear and understandable anger in the local community.  Fenland District Council has always been against these plans and provided strong arguments against the proposal.

"Fenland District Council stands with local residents in seeking to oppose development of this incinerator and re-affirms the council's opposition to this.

"The decision by the Secretary of State is not able to be appealed. However, the decision can potentially be challenged by means of a judicial review if the decision can be shown to have been made irrationally and/or without proper process having been followed.

"Fenland District Council therefore authorises officers to instruct legal counsel with appropriate expertise to provide their opinion in respect of this decision and the way in which it has been made by the Secretary of State, specifically to advise whether there are any grounds for a judicial review to be sought to overturn this decision, and the likelihood that any such judicial review would be successful.

"Council instructs officers to begin conversations with Wisbech Town Council, Cambridgeshire County Council, King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council, Norfolk County Council and the CPCA to establish what their contribution would be to the costs of a Judicial Review if there are grounds to pursue such action.

"Furthermore, Council issues an invitation to Claire Coutinho to visit Fenland, as soon as possible on whatever date her diary commitments allow, so that a formal meeting may be held at which she would be invited to explain in greater detail her rationale for approving the proposed incinerator, and at which she will be invited to respond to questions and statements from Fenland District councillors about her decision."

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February 2024

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