Land sale to incinerator firm would be 'unforgivable betrayal' for Wisbech
Fenland District Council has firmly rejected moves by MVV Environment Ltd to buy land it owns to enable the Wisbech incinerator project to go forward.
The German-based developer's managing director Paul Carey of Medworth CHP Ltd, has written to the council threatening to use compulsory purchase powers to gain the land it needs to build the incinerator, if the council refuses to sell them what they want.
But Fenland Council is sticking to its guns after members unanimously passed a motion to oppose the planned waste incinerator, in whatever legal way necessary at a meeting back in February 2020, and is refusing to even enter into talks with the firm over the land.
Mr Carey has offered the council £723,000 plus up to £5,000 in legal costs for the land off Algores Way, which he says is required for various parts of the project, which will see a 54 mega watt incinerator dominating the Wisbech skyline if it goes ahead.
In a letter sent to Fenland's chief executive, Paul Medd, Mr Carey explains Medworth CHP Ltd is preparing to submit its application to the planning inspectorate - the incinerator is considered an infra-structure project because of its size which means it will be up to the government and not local planners to determine whether or not it can be built.
He goes on to say that the firm has identified a parcel of land that's needed to enable the incinerator to be built and said: "We would prefer to enter into a voluntary agreement with FDC to purchase the land required for the energy from waste combined heat and power facility and the temporary construction compound; rather than use the compulsory acquisition route.
"We therefore hereby offer, for the sum of £723,000 to purchase from FDC the entirety of the land (subject to contract). We would also pay your
reasonable and properly incurred legal and surveyor fees associated with the purchase up to a limit of £5,000."
Mr Carey then offers to discuss the matter with council officers.
But Mark Greenwood, Fenland's property, assets and major projects manager, responded on behalf of the authority, and made it clear it would not consider the voluntary sale of the necessary land nor did he consider there was any need to discuss the matter.
He said: "As you are aware from previous discussions the position of Fenland District Council was and remains that the council objects to the development you propose on a number of grounds including, but not limited to, the potential impact on the local communities on the safeguarded route for a future Wisbech rail link.
"Throughout the weeks of correspondence MVV have failed either to demonstrate a need for a CPO (compulsory purchase order) and have failed to prove a CPO would be in the public interest.
"The company has never questioned the importance of the future rail link and moreover no alternative has been proposed.
"In view of the above I consider that to engage in further talks would serve no useful purpose. Therefore the council are not prepared to enter into discussions surrounding the voluntary transfer of any land which may be sought for the delivery of the proposed facility."
Council leader Chris Boden commented on Fenland's position and said: "It would be an unforgivable act of betrayal against the residents of Wisbech and nearby villages if Fenland District Council were voluntarily to facilitate the Wisbech incinerator project by selling FDC's land near the incinerator site to Medworth CHP Ltd, especially if that sale were to take place ‘on the cheap’.
"It may be a measure of inflation over the centuries that the current going rate (for betrayal) appears to be £728,000, whereas 2,000 years ago it might only have been thirty pieces of silver.”
All the area's local authorities: Wisbech Town Council, Cambridgeshire County Council, West Norfolk Borough Council, Norfolk County Council have joined Fenland in opposing MVV's plans.
The objectors also have the support of local MP Steve Barclay, and there is a vociferous campaign group - Wisbech Without Incineration (WISwin), which has spearheaded the community opposition.