The decision taken by King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council to object to the plan to build a 420,000 tonnes per year wood burning biomass incinerator at Sutton Bridge is to be applauded.
The council, a statutory consultee, held a special planning committee to consider the proposal.
The councillors showed intelligence and perception in questioning the propaganda submitted by the developer. They concluded there was insufficient information about the sustainability of the wood and about where it was coming from.
The councillors were rightly sceptical about the “assurance” EPSB gave they had no plans to import the wood.
Residents of Sutton Bridge attach little weight to assurances given by EPSB. Initially they said the wood would be sourced locally. Then it would come from further afield within the United Kingdom. Only when experts including the Forestry Commission pointed out they were unlikely to source such a large quantity of wood in this country they came clean. They stated in 2012 that due to the current limited supply of biomass in the UK “the majority of the biomass fuel will be sourced from overseas”.
According to official figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change the demand for fuel for the wood burning biomass industry caused imports of wood to rise from 0.1 million tonnes in 2009 to 1.3 million tonnes in 2012.
Research by the Forestry Commission shows that existing small biomass incinerators already account for the available domestic wood supply with the result that home grown wood will not be available for new developments. Large scale biomass incinerators already import huge quantities of wood from America.
Official predictions suggest imports of 10 million tons will required in 2015 and over 15 million by 2020.
The figures show demand for wood has increased while the domestic supply remains static. If EPSB were unable to source their biomass in the UK two years ago when there was less demand little credibility can be attached to claims they can do so now.
The King’s Lynn planning committee scrutinised the information before them.
It is to be hoped the South Holland District Council planners follow their example.