Plans from Belgian company Hippofan to burn waste wood close to the town centre are almost dead after its subsidiary Pure Green withdrew applications to the Environment Agency for a licence to operate a biomass plant at Cheney Manor Industrial Estate.
But they’re not yet dead as an application to develop the site is still lodged with Swindon Council’s planning department.
Councillor Des Moffatt, pictured above and below with resident Paul Saunders by Richard Wintle of Calyx, said he had received confirmation on 21 January that Hippofan/Pure Green was no longer applying for a licence to the Envionment Agency. "It’s a very big step in the right direction but it is not yet over. The planning application remains with the council and were it to be approved there is every likelihood that there would be a new application to the Environment Agency for a licence to pollute.”
Hippofan, which makes animal bedding, lodged plans to build the biomass plant at Cheney Manor in April 2013, so that it could supply the UK market using British sourced materials, rather than importing from factories in Europe. They wanted to burn waste wood to generate electricity on site to process virgin wood for 50,000 tonnes of bedding.
However residents rose up against the project, expressing their worries about potentially harmful pollutants drifting across the large number of houses close-by and also several schools. They also objected to the likelihood of 90 heavy lorries a day transporting materials to the site and removing finished bedding, as well as two tall chimneys, one 90 metres high.
Whilst the planning application is still live, a decision about it was deferred in August 2013 when councillors called on Hippofan to conduct meaningful consultation with residents and neighbouring businesses. This has not taken place yet.
"I do think this the beginning of the end for this sorry planning application," said Cllr Moffat. "Hippofan has started to ask for compensation for the money they’ve spent applying for licences and permissions which indicates they’re preparing to walk away from Swindon."
Cheney Manor resident Paul Saunders said there is a need to look forward. "The Cheney Manor industrial estate really does needs regeneration soon; we don’t object to new building. Many are well past their sell by date.
"Swindon is an attractive place for business and Cheney Manor is a good place to create jobs near where people live. But we must see investment by the right kind of business and people must be properly consulted about building proposals."
North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson welcomed the news that the threat of the biomass plan was receding. He said: "The hundreds of people who attended public meetings and went to the Civic Offices to protest against the Hippofan project made their views heard loud and clear.
"It was very clear from the start that the proposal was sensitive, yet the Hippofan application was both poorly written and shoddy, and created huge anxiety amongst residents.
"Residents and local councillors have conducted a well argued campaign. I hope Hippofan fully realise there is no point in continuing with their proposal."
Images: Richard Wintle of Calyx