Wiltshire Publications

Full steam ahead for controversial power plant in Westbury

CONTROVERSIALplans to build a new 22 megawatt power station  inWestbury have been given the go-ahead despite objections from the town council and local residents.

Wiltshire Council last month granted Northacre Renewable Energy – a company owned by Hills Group –  permission to build a new power plant, complete with a 200 foot chimney, on Stephenson Road. The plant will heat household waste to produce a gas used to generate electricity.

The plans, submitted in December last year, were objected to by Westbury Town Council, local residents and campaign groups. Arla Foods dairies, next door to the site, also posted an objection but later withdrew it.

Concerns were raised about emissions from the chimney, heavy traffic and pests.

Westbury town councillor and chair of the town’s planning committee, Russell Hawker said earlier this year, “The height of the chimney would mean that, in strong southerly winds, there is potential for fumes to be blown horizontally onto Studland Park and Newtown as we saw with the Lafarge plant.

“This is a worry because although we’re repeatedly told the fumes would be insignificant, we just don’t know their chemical composition. I’m sure they’d be cleaner than those from the cement works, but I find it hard to believe they’d be totally free of poisons. We have to ask if residents would notice the smell, or even if it would affect their health.

“The objection was more of a precautionary measure; we don’t object to the plant in principle, but Stephenson Road is just not a suitable location.”

The plant, which is expected to operate 24 hours a day, will produce electricity using a process called gasification, which involves heating treated household waste at temperatures up to 1,600°C.

Fears over fumes

Fears about the fumes made during this process were also expressed by local campaign groups The Air That We Breathe Network and Wiltshire Friends of the Earth.

David Levy, on behalf of the above groups, wrote to the Environment Agency with their concerns.

He wrote, “As past history with the Blue Circle/ Lafarge Tarmac chimney is testament, there is much disquiet with emissions adding to traffic emissions in the town centre.

“When the plant was in consultation, Hills Waste Solutions reassured the community that an energy from waste plant was not going to happen. Is this another example of growth through stealth?

“It clearly demonstrates that Hills and Wiltshire County Council cannot be trusted with our health and air quality.”

In the letter the groups questioned how the household waste, which is considered hazardous, would be treated to make it safe for incineration.

They also asked how emissions would be filtered and how air quality at the dairy next door would be monitored.

Air quality assessment

An air quality assessment produced on behalf of Northacre Renewable Energy deemed that the environmental impact of emissions would be of “minor significance.” The assessment also noted that the likelihood of “annoyance due to emissions of odours” was negligible, as was the possibility of tainting foods produced at the dairy next door.

Another concern raised during consultation was the amount of traffic the plant would produce. Wiltshire Council will allow the plant to see 42 lorry trips into or out of the site every weekday between 7am and 10pm. There would be none allowed on Sundays, but up to 28 on Saturdays between 7am and 5pm.

The plant will be built on land between the Northacre Resource Recovery Centre and Arla Dairies on Stephenson Road, just over a mile from Westbury town centre. Its main chimney will stand at 60m (200 foot) tall – nearly half the size of the chimney at the old cement works.

To see the plans enter  14/12003/WCM in the planning search at www.wiltshire.gov.uk