Gasifier protest may come to the streets of Spalding

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Sutton Bridge villagers protesting against a planned multi-million-pound gasifier power station may take their fight to the streets of Spalding.

They’re already holding a mass car “procession” on the A17 on Saturday, July 26 – but now want to send a powerful message to Spalding councillors, who they claim are using their village as a “dumping ground”.

Details of the Spalding protest haven’t been decided, but it’s likely to take place before July 30 – the date the district council may decide an amended application for the £300million gasifier.

Sutton Bridge and the proposed Wingland gasifier site are on the edge of South Holland – around 18 miles from Spalding – and residents believe they’re getting dumped on because councillors in Spalding and other areas are far enough away to escape the political fallout.

Parish councillors Mary Preston and Phil Scarlett urged residents who are planning the A17 protest to take their placards to Spalding.

Coun Scarlett said: “You can make all the noise you like in Sutton Bridge, but I believe in Spalding the councillors there are saying ‘it’s happening out there, it’s nowhere near us, so we don’t care’.

“If you want to have a protest, have it in Spalding – have it outside South Holland District Council.

“It’s in the system now, play the system and make it work.”

And Coun Preston said: “Get some banners, get to Spalding and make some noise.”

South Holland’s council taxpayers have had to foot a near £10,500 bill because the district planning committee blundered when it gave planning consent to EnergyPark Sutton Bridge last year for the massive, wood-fuelled power plant with its 12 80-metre high chimneys.

Its unlawful decision was overturned earlier this year when great-grandma Shirley Giles (74) paid around £3,500 to take the case to judicial review in the High Court.

Parish councillor Mrs Giles won back her costs from the district council and is ready to go to court again if another ‘flawed decision is made.

Sutton Bridge Parish Council and villagers want the amended application to be decided by a public inquiry so all aspects are examined, including fire risks, the threat of explosions so close to possibly two gas-fired power stations, and potential pollution and health hazards for villagers and marine life in and around The Wash, which is a protected site of world importance.

The parish council had an extraordinary meeting on Friday and called on the district council to foot the bill for an independent expert opinion on EnergyPark Sutton Bridge’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) of its own plans.

If the district says no – or fails to respond within seven working days – the parish council decided it will pay for independent expert advice.

Villagers are also calling for a parish poll so that all residents can back a move to have the gasifier application and the EDF plan for a second gas-fired power station called in by the Secretary of State so a public inquiry can be held.

South Holland’s planning committee has already supported the EDF plan.

Sutton Bridge has one gas-fired power station and, if the two new ones get the go-ahead, villagers will be living in the shadow of 17 towering chimneys.

The gasifier – dubbed an “incinerator” by villagers – will be fuelled by 420,000 tonnes of wood each year.

One resident said: “Experts say that it’s 20 per cent efficient – that means around 330,000 tonnes of wood are being burned for nothing.”

So far EnergyPark Sutton Bridge has refused to say where the wood will come from or if it will shipped through Port Sutton Bridge or King’s Lynn.

Villagers attending Friday’s meeting heard West Norfolk District Council is holding a special meeting this week to discuss the EnergyPark plan.

Roger Ward, from the King’s Lynn Advisory Group – a watchdog that oversees issues to do with The Wash and North Norfolk Coast European Marine Site – said South Holland District Council has a statutory duty to protect The Wash and must do that.

He also called for an independent expert opinion on the company’s EIA as the planning documents are so complex.