Call for public inquiry over biomass plant

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Parish councillors want a public inquiry to decide whether a controversial £165million biomass gasifier is built at Wingland – because they don’t trust the district council to deliver a sound verdict.

South Holland District Council passed EnergyPark Sutton Bridge’s gasifier planning application last year, but that decision was overturned this spring when great-grandma Shirley Giles (74) took the case to the High Court.

Revised plans are with the council but the public have been given just three weeks – until July 8 – to comment and SHDC could make its decision as early as July 30.

Battle lines are being drawn and residents can sign a petition opposing the gasifier as parish councillor Vicky Hills is inviting people to her home, Bridge House, in New Road, Sutton Bridge, between 10am-4pm on Saturday and Sunday.

Coun Hills said: “I think residents of Sutton Bridge need to turn up, pose for the cameras, and say ‘we don’t want it’.”

Parish councillor Jenny Rowe – once a member of the district’s planning committee – says the committee isn’t up to the job of deciding the application and it should be taken out of its hands.

She told Tuesday’s parish council meeting: “We can’t trust South Holland District Council to deal with this. They messed up last time and they now appear to have another application which still doesn’t cover all of the issues.”

Shirley Giles, the parish councillor who stumped up £3,500 to take the council to judicial review, wasn’t available for comment.

A legal document when she won her case revealed council planning conditions “link sustainability of feedstock with participation in a relevant financial assistance regime”.

It continued: “The defendant (SHDC) accepts that it failed to consider adequately or at all that such a linkage might enable the development to operate unsustainably during some or all its lifetime.”

Coun Rowe said the planning committee this month supported EDF’s bid for a new power station on the banks of the Nene without questioning whether it would be water or air-cooled – if water-cooled it could have a massive impact on The Wash, a wildlife site of world importance.

She said emissions from the existing power station reach the “upper levels” and the public need to know about the combined impact of all three power stations.

Bridge Against the Incinerator chairman Craig Jackson said: “Hopefully we are going to make the planning committee sit up and listen this time.”

He said the gasifier will be only 30 per cent efficient, while most home boilers are between 98-99 per cent efficient, and described that as “terrible” considering the disruption, risk to health and amount of public subsidy it will attract.

Mr Jackson said: “They are going to struggle to argue that this plant is efficient. It’s clearly not.”

EnergyPark Sutton Bridge declined to comment on a suggestion the company is pushing the district council for a decision on July 30.

A spokesman said: “EnergyPark Sutton Bridge will have a positive impact on the local economy, through inward investment and job creation, in an area zoned for industrial development.

“We have developed our plans in line with feedback from the local community. The additional information submitted in support of the amended application makes it clear that the fuel source for the gasifier will consist only of wood, obtained from sustainable sources.

“In order to ensure that the project is as beneficial as possible, we shall be seeking local commercial partners who can benefit from excess heat generated as a by-product.”

The spokesman said the plant would make “a vital contribution to the UK’s renewable energy provision”.