The decision on whether to permit a wood burning incinerator to be built at Cheney Manor industrial estate was deferred at Swindon Council’s planning committee on 13 August in advance of a large turnout of objectors in the council chamber.
One hundred and eighty people signed in at the Civic Offices front desk, but such was the crush of objectors trying to get into the meeting that an estimated 100 more didn’t bother and by-passed the queue.
Following concerns expressed by residents and the setting up of a Facebook group which achieved over 600 members in four days, councillors called for greater consideration to be given to the implications of the proposal.
They want further questions to be answered by the applicant Pure Green, a subsidiary of Belgian animal bedding manufacturer Hippofan.
Pure Green claimed considerable environmental benefits from the biomass plant which it said was for ‘recovery of sorted materials.’
But Rodbourne Cheney councillor Des Moffatt, who investigated the planning application and explained the background to a packed public meeting on 9 August which brought so many people to the planning meeting said:
“The council has put on hold the Pure Green application with criticism of the inadequate nature of the pre-application consultation. Hopefully the public will now have the opportunity to express their views, should the company pursue their plan.
“What is being proposed is a very large site for the processing of waste wood within the industrial estate, but not far from a lot of housing, a large secondary school and primary schools.”
Des said people are very worried about a number of major issues including:
• two large chimneys, one of 30 metres, the other 25 metres;
• 90 lorry movements almost every day of the year bringing in waste wood of all kinds from far and wide, and removing of ash residue from the incinerator to go to landfill;
• dust created from the pre-incineration process where wood has to be broken down into pellets ready to be burnt:
• the level of particulate contamination emitted from the chimneys. Emerging medical opinion suggests that the size of particulates are higher than is considered safe to health.
Des added: “It is not yet generally known that the principal scientific advisor to the government believes that support for biomass plants of this nature should not continue given the poor energy output from burning pelleted wood.
“The best plants are 27 per cent efficient, the least are 7 per cent efficient. Compare this will coal fired power stations which are 36 per cent efficient.
“Residents in Rodbourne Cheney suspect the Pure Green application was being rushed through to take advantage of central government subsidy before they are removed.”
At the planning committee Jacob Vizor, 14, pictured below, who is head boy of the 1,000 student Nova Hreod College, about half a mile from the Pure Green site, made a moving speech to councillors. He said: “I am told that all of you here tonight have mine and the many young people of the area’s future in your hands regarding our health and the quality of air around our schools and homes.
“I have many mentors in my life that I look up to: my scout leaders; my tennis coaches; my guitar teacher; my church ministers; and of course my school teachers. To help develop me and achieve my potential, all these people tell me the same thing – the truth.
“Tonight will you listen to the truth, that this report and application given to you by this company leaves more questions than answers?”
Expressing his view of the proposal Justin Tomlinson said in a letter to the planning committee: “The report is shoddy, with references remaining from a previous application. This undermines confidence in the information presented.
“The majority of residents who have contacted me had absolutely no idea that this was due at planning on 13 August, which has limited the ability for residents to raise concerns and responses to be provided.”
Despite lauding the proposal as a major win for the town in a press release in April this year, Swindon Council economic development arm Forward Swindon declined to comment on the committee deferral. A spokeswoman said: “Once the applications hit the planning process we don’t get involved.”
In the August edition of Swindon Link magazine Forward Swindon director of investment Phil Young said: “Pure Green could be a major win for Swindon. They will use state-of-the-art technologies to produce sustainable energy and products, using resources from within the Swindon area.
“We have helped the company find suitable premises and given guidance on planning issues. If they gain planning consent, they will be contributing to one of our key target sectors – the low carbon economy.”
Residents now await Pure Green’s next move. Des Moffat said he hopes they’ll decide not to waste more money on pursuing a planning appeal and withdraw their proposal.
Swindon Link Magazine reported at the end of July the importance of distinguishing Pure Green’s proposal from Swindon Borough Council’s own plans to turn the town’s black bag waste into solid recovered fuel (SRF) at a processing plant being built at Waterside Park, close to the Pure Green site. This dried material will be removed and burnt in power plants outside the town. Read about it here
All pictures by Richard Wintle of Calyx
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