Has great-gran (75) beaten the gasifier?

Fighting on: Shirley Giles.
Fighting on: Shirley Giles.
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Council officers have done a U-turn to recommend refusal of a proposed gasifier power station at Sutton Bridge a year after planning consent for the controversial plant was overturned in the High Court by a great-granny.

South Holland’s planning officers changed their minds because applicants EnergyPark Sutton Bridge have for seven months failed to answer a series of key questions – including the type of fuel to be burned and its source.

But the gasifier isn’t dead in the water because South Holland’s planning committee could go against their officers when they meet on March 18 – and, even if a refusal is agreed then, the company will have 12 months to supply the information the council has requested and planning consent could still be granted.

Parish councillor Shirley Giles (75), the great-granny who overturned the council’s original decision to grant planning consent for the gasifier, has this week vowed to go on fighting until the plan is finally killed off.

She said: “My lawyers are waiting in the wings. I am hopeful this is the end of it, but we don’t know until the application is actually refused and if they (the company) do come back we have just got to start again.”

Mrs Giles’ supporters include MP John Hayes and fellow parish councillor Jenny Rowe.

Coun Rowe said: “If Shirley hadn’t gone to court this gasifier could have been built by now.”

Mr Hayes said: “I just don’t feel this proposal ever stacked up. Some of the key questions that I posed never received satisfactory answers. I wasn’t convinced this was the right technology in the right place. I think the council have done exactly the right thing.”

The MP said he was delighted to have been part of the community’s campaign against the gasifier, but had special words of praise for the great-granny who kept everyone’s hopes alive.

He said: “Shirley Giles is a model of how one woman’s insight and courage can move mountains. I never needed persuading of Shirley Giles’ case because I always believed in it, as she knows, but it is clear the case had to be made and there was no better person to make it than Shirley, who is the champion of Sutton Bridge.

“The people of Sutton Bridge – and I think all of the residents of South Holland – owe Shirley an immense debt of gratitude.”

South Holland’s planning manager Paul Jackson said the council asked the developers for additional information on August 13 last year with a deadline of the end of that month, but nothing was received by the deadline and nothing has been received since despite repeated chasing.

He said in September the company had called off a meeting with the council two days before it was due to take place.