PLANS to build a controversial incinerator on Ince Marshes have been given the green light despite fears that toxic fumes could harm villagers’ health.
In a fraught meeting of the Cheshire West and Chester strategic planning board last Thursday, councillors voted an overwhelming ‘no’ to Peel Energy’s plans to build a 20mw biomass renewable energy plant on Ince Marshes.
But after failing to determine and adequate planning reason despite more than an hour of debate, with councillors being warned of having a ‘pick and mix attitude’ by officers, the committee made a dramatic U-turn and approved the timber-fuelled development.
The application was approved under a series of conditions including a newly enforced condition by the board that air quality monitoring must be enforced in Helsby throughout the life time of the development.
Professor John Dearden, member of community group Residents Against the Incinerator (RAIN), asked the committee to reject the application which would release more than 268,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere above Helsby, Frodsham and Ince every year.
“It is unjustifiable to inflict yet another polluting industrial plant on this locality. We must have environmental justice,” said Prof Dearden.
Helsby councillor Les Ford compared the area to a ‘goldfish bowl’ where the combination of two incinerators, Quinn Glass, Growhow and a potential wind farm are causing residents to have real concerns over pollution levels and the negative effects on their health.
“The application states that 10,000 tonnes will be sent to the landfill, we are short of landfill space so why should we put pressure on ourselves by approving this?”
Representing Peel Energy, planning consultant Stephen Bell said that the benefits of the development clearly outweighed the negative concerns saying that jobs would be created by the plant and that it would create power for the equivalent of 37,000 homes every year.
The biomass application replaces plans to build a bio-ethanol plant on plot nine of the Ince Resource and Recovery Plant, which was approved last year.
After a lengthy debate where councillors expressed their concerns over the size of the 85m-tall chimney, the cumulative effect of the wind farm and industrial developments nearby, emissions, traffic, outdated technology, landfill and the origin of the tens of thousands of tonnes of wood, councillors voted to throw out the application seven to two.
But after councillors failed to provide adequate planning reasons for the refusal the committee was forced to make an unusual U-turn and accept Peel Energy’s proposal subject to a Section 106 agreement.
Following the meeting, RAIN said: “We are of course very disappointed that the committee voted to pass the application, having first voted to reject it.
“Given the advice they received from the officers they were left in a very difficult position, but at least they added a further condition that should demonstrate the degree of pollution we currently suffer and monitor the extra pollution caused by this and the other Peel developments.”