Multi-millions to make village UK’s ‘power house’

SPIN OFF: A pleasure marina along this stretch of riverbank is a possible spin off from the original power station cash ' but will the plan sink? SG230913-249TW
SPIN OFF: A pleasure marina along this stretch of riverbank is a possible spin off from the original power station cash ' but will the plan sink? SG230913-249TW

Millions of pounds are heading for Sutton Bridge with a £1billion gas-fired power station the latest in a string of energy projects.

EDF aims to build its Sutton Bridge B power station next to the existing gas fired power station.

EnergyPark Sutton Bridge has district council planning consent – but not Government approval yet – for its controversial £165million biomass gasifier at Wingland.

And Centrica, which has just finished its offshore Lincs Wind Farm, is set to burrow through the Sutton Bridge seabank for a second time to lay cables to its proposed Race Bank Wind Farm off the Norfolk coast.

Centrica is the only company so far that hasn’t stumped up any cash to directly benefit the community and one of its consultants, Simon Gamage, was put on the spot at a parish council meeting on Tuesday when Coun Vicky Hills asked why.

All Mr Gamage could do was promise to “take it back” to the company.

CURLEW CENTRE: Visitor Emma Robbin talks to EDF representatives, Jeremy Bush and Jonathan Levy. SG210913-181TW

CURLEW CENTRE: Visitor Emma Robbin talks to EDF representatives, Jeremy Bush and Jonathan Levy. SG210913-181TW

Parish councillor Gary Croxford said: “Sutton Bridge is fast becoming the power house of the United Kingdom.”

A Government decision on EDF’s power station is months away and the company is unlikely to submit its planning application before the end of the year, but the power giant expects to enter into a Section 106 agreement and that could bring a generous cash windfall for Sutton Bridge.

The existing power station brought with it £1million in Section 106 money and funded projects such as the building of The Curlew Centre.

But £267,000 has been earmarked for a controversial pleasure marina, which has now plunged into a legal wrangle with the county council considering compulsory purchase orders, and there are worries the money could be lost to the village and returned unspent to the power station.

Will marina plan sink?

There are fears that a controversial pleasure marina plan will sink into a legal quagmire with the county council considering compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) to buy land along the riverbank.

Some £267,000 of the power station Section 106 cash is tied up in the 80-berth project – and the county has declined to say if it will hand back the cash so it can be spent on something else before the 2015 deadline.

District councillor Michael Booth, vice chairman of Sutton Bridge Parish Council, said CPOs could take “light years” to sort out if the land owners appeal – and he wants to make sure the cash is spent for the benefit of the village and not handed back to the power station.

The county intended to have the £915,000 marina built before Christmas 2012, but admitted in early December it was trying to sort out a legal issue on land ownership.

Council head of regeneration Paul Wheatley said yesterday: “Whether ultimately the land is assembled through negotiation or with the surgical use of CPO powers, it now appears inevitable that the project will be delayed. The council find this frustrating, as there is a great will to intervene to improve the economic circumstances of the people of Sutton Bridge.”

He says the council wants the project “brought forward as soon as possible”.

The council claims economic spin-offs for Sutton Bridge could be as much as £200,000 a year, but that figure is disputed by project opponents.

* After it was given district council planning consent, Sutton Bridge Parish Council set aside a £10,000 “fighting fund” to try to derail the EnergyPark gasifier, but is waiting for the district to issue a formal planning consent notice before making its next move.

Coun Booth said the district is waiting for the parish to make a step and it’s reached “stalemate”.

£1billion power station

Sutton Bridge B could provide 1,500 jobs at the peak of construction and 50 jobs long-term, providing a massive boost to the village economy.

But EDF Energy has to jump through the hoops to win planning and other consents from the Government and the man steering the project – Jeremy Bush – says: “An investment decision isn’t imminent.”

EDF held a public information day at The Curlew Centre, in Sutton Bridge, on Saturday with parish councillors first having their own talks with company bosses before the public streamed in.

Mr Bush, the company’s power origination and asset development manager, said: “We are still at a very early stage. We are still consulting having made some changes to the planning application originally made in 2005.”

The consultation runs until October 14 and EDF then intends to submit its planning application to the Department for Energy and Climate Change by the end of the year.

Mr Bush said: “The timetable for their decision is out of our control, but we would hope they would be able to make a decision within a period of months.”

Among issues to be settled and given Government consent is the company’s request to extract water from the River Nene to use in the power station’s cooling process.

The 1800MW power station will supply around two million homes.

Sutton Bridge Parish Council is concerned that construction of the gas-fired power station should not clash with the building of a £165million biomass gasifier if the Government gives that plan the final go-ahead too.

The parish council is vehemently opposed to the EnergyPark Sutton Bridge project, which has been given planning consent by South Holland District Council, and is now awaiting a Government environmental permit that would allow it to operate.

Parish council clerk Suzanne England has forwarded councillors’ concerns about the EDF plan to the company, including worries on air quality, but the parish council will not make a formal response until EDF submits its planning application.

l Residents who want to comment on Sutton Bridge B can email SuttonBridgeBInformation@edfenergy.com or send letters to Freepost SBB Consultation. Information is available on freephone 0800 022 6154.