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Council’s planning process labelled ‘unfit for purpose’ by gasification campaigners

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WILTSHIRE Council’s approval of planning permission for an 11km underground cable for the gasification plant, has left campaigners disappointed over the unanimous decision. 

During a strategic planning meeting on Thursday 20th June, Wiltshire Council granted Northacre Renewable Energy permission to build the 11km underground cable, which will link the gasification plant to the national grid in Frome. 

However, as 8km of the cable route is through Mendip District Council territory, the outcome is not yet certain for the waste company. 

Representatives from the Westbury Gasification Action Group (WGAG), Margaret Cavanna, Harriet James, Dan Gmaj and Marie Hillcoat, as well as cllr Ian Cunningham, chair of the highways, planning and development committee at Westbury Town Council, were present. 

WGAG campaigner, Dan Gmaj said, “We were unsurprised by the outcome.  A unanimous decision to approve, was however, a genuine disappointment!  The process on the day showed a clear predetermination by the committee of nine (one independent, one Lib Dem and seven Conservative councillors)  to accept the case officer’s recommendations, regardless of the quality and level of opposing arguments. 

“The Wiltshire Council  process has, on the issue of the gasification plant for Westbury, simply been unfit for purpose!  A waste of time, genuine human resources and the public money that funds it.

“Strategic planning in Mendip will shortly be faced with a decision that covers the seven kilometre section in Somerset.  We await the outcome before considering our next steps to ensure that our communities are listened to!”

Cllr Ian Cunningham said. “I spoke at Wiltshire Council’s strategic planning meeting in Chippenham to reaffirm Westbury Town Council’s opposition to the cable.

“We were concerned about risks to  archaeological sites which, in fairness, were partly addressed by an apparently robust approach from Wiltshire Council and the potential for environmental damage.

“I also noted that the need for an 11km connecting cable underlined Westbury Town Council’s view that the plant was in a far from ideal location. The cable is needed to operate the generating plant but despite some very well argued objections to the whole principle of the operation, in terms of both national and council policies by residents for renewable energy and waste handling, the councillors considered the cable in isolation and then followed the recommendation from the chair, with unanimous support.

“I reminded the committee that this was a danger of piecemeal applications which, whilst entirely within the rules, can often produce a whole that might not have been permitted.

 “Had there been a single application for an ATT (gasification) plant together with an 11km cable, would the town council’s concerns over location have carried more weight?

“It is easy to accuse the town council of nimbyism but the reality is that the operation as a whole makes no sense in this location, whatever your views on the process. 

“My personal view  is that this is not “renewable” power as nothing is used again and that it ‘solves’ a problem by actually encouraging its cause [too much waste in the first place with insufficient recycling, particularly of plastic].

 “Would there ever have been approval for a combined application for a mechanical and biological treatment plant (that makes the ‘fuel’ and has had the fly problems), with an ATT plant (to convert and burn it) and an 11Km cable to take the power to where it can be used? 

“What might happen next is something that planners don’t like to consider and which they try to dismiss as “not part of the current application” but in the real world, we need to think more about these issues.

“One of the ironies here is that an argument used in favour of the ATT plant was that it might slightly reduce (although this is far from certain) traffic, as the output from the MBT (mechanical biological treatment) plant can now be burnt on site – but if the MBT site had not already been built, the arguments against bringing all the waste into our traffic-choked town would have been very strong.”

One Response to Council’s planning process labelled ‘unfit for purpose’ by gasification campaigners

  1. Dan Gmaj

    July 13, 2019 at 1:54 pm

    My comments in full:
    “Council make poor recommendations that not only defy belief, but also defy multiple Core Policies of their own making!”

    1) The Call in:

    “From my observations over the last year I can only conclude that the Westminster ‘Circus’ has sadly delegated our community’s health and ‘Responsible Recycling’ to the ‘Clowns!’ – A few encouraging checks have been added to the planning conditions, however, the failure to call-in this ATT Gasification project is a massive opportunity lost to link up nationwide action on Climate Emergency and current thinking on UK waste strategy, Central government simply ‘donned its blinkers and washed its hands’ of overall responsibility, instead suggesting that such matters should be handled at a local level. Of course, our genuine local thinking is ‘THE WRONG PLANT IN THE WRONG PLACE AT THE WRONG TIME’ as Our MP Andrew Murrison has also stated citing the ‘Precautionary Principle’. Sadly for our region however, when Westminster say ‘Local’ what they mean is accepting a poorly assessed decision from a Wiltshire Council ‘Strategic Planning Committee’ being fed poor recommendations that not only defy belief, but also multiple Core Policies of their own making! it is all predictably unfortunate and wholey unsound! – We will of course, continue to fight and represent our community!”

    2) The 11km Grid connection Trench:

    “The way in which the strategic planning process has been used to ‘divide up’ the pieces of this privately funded infrastructure, assures that seemingly ‘credible’ approvals can be made in ‘isolation’ of the bigger picture. So, we were unsurprised by the outcome. A ‘unanimous decision’ to approve, was however, a genuine disappointment! The process on the day showed a clear predetermination by the committee of nine (One independent, one Lib Dem and seven Conservative councillors) to accept the case officer’s recommendations, regardless of the quality and level of opposing arguments. It proved a process clearly unfit for purpose, as rather than address the stream of Wiltshire Core Policies (just as one example) that would be contraveniend by ‘Approval’ when they were read out one after the other by the WGAG representation. Only a single, inadequate in itself, ‘reply to one’ was made by the case officer and soon after, the ‘Chair’ moved to approve!
    I’ll say it once more! The Wiltshire Council process has, on the issue of the #ATT gasification Plant for Westbury, simply been unfit for purpose! A waste of time, genuine human resources and the public money that funds it.
    Strategic Planning in Mendip will shortly be faced with a decision that covers the seven kilometer section in Somerset. We await the outcome before considering our next steps to ensure that our communities are listened to!

    3) A few words on renewable energy: –

    “Much has been made in Hills Group / NRE press releases on BBC and mainstream media about ‘Renewable Energy’ and in the Chippenham Council Chamber last week, we were ‘Yet again’ subjected to such a statement, on this occasion read out by Chief Executive Mike Hill himself. Councillors and even Government ministers have been fooled by poor definitions of ‘Renewable’ in the past, so, Just for the for the record. ‘Renewable Energy’ is not: Having a 25 year licence to burn High calorific waste from anywhere (on our doorstep) because that does not make the ‘Efw’ (energy from waste) genuinely renewable, it just means you can get more if it to replace what has been burnt already! (It’s hard to be subtle about that!)
    Genuine ‘Renewable energy’ (Ref – Wikipedia) is energy that is collected from ‘renewable’ resources, which are naturally replenished on a human timescale, such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat.
    It is simply ‘folly’ to include ‘High Calorific’ or indeed any waste in this category. After all, humans technically renew themselves on a ‘human timescale’ don’t they, but I doubt that even the Hills Group would seek to get renewable energy from such a resource? Oh no! surely that’s not the kind of brave new world that the waste industry have planned for us, right!

    Please continue to recycle responsibly, be active and caring in your community and when you get the chance, hold your councillors to account for the decisions they make on your behalf!”

    Dan Gmaj

    (Resident / wgag member / Founder: Westbury Shed)

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