Working hard for you
The planning committee took the decision to give the plans for an incinerator in North Yard the go-ahead on 22nd December. The seven Conservative committee members voted in favour of the plans, the five Labour members against.
Many constituents have been sending call-in requests to the Secretary of State for Communities and whilst they have been acknowledged, I have now received a reply confirming that a call-in will not be considered. Quite how the Community Secretary can make a decision in less than a day after the meeting, his letter to me was dated 23 December, and without access to the minutes of the meeting, does beg very serious questions indeed. A copy of my letter to the Minister is attached below:-
In the meantime the Environment Agency, who have indicated that they are minded to issue a permit to the developers MVV, will hold a further public consultation on Monday, 16th January 2012 at Tamar View Community Centre in Barne Barton, from 1.30 to 6.30pm. Further views can also be submitted in writing until 3rd February to: Environment Agency, PSC, Quadrant 2, 99 Parkway Avenue, Sheffield, S9 4WF or firstname.lastname@example.org , quoting reference number EPR/WP3833FT.
10 January 2012
Re: Planning Application 11/00750/FUL for Incinerator in North Yard, Plymouth
I am writing to you to urge you to re-consider the many requests for calling in application number 11/00750/FUL for an incinerator at North Yard in my Plymouth constituency, which were sent to you at the end of last year.
I am concerned that you responded the day after the decision was taken, ruling out an appeal. I think this was an astonishingly quick decision to take and I doubt that you were able to properly and fully consider the plans and associated valid concerns in a period of around 12 hours! Certainly the issues raised during the course of the proceedings could not have been fully considered as the minutes would not have been available. Can you explain therefore how you came to such a view.
I need to make you aware of the local sentiments for this project, which must not be ignored. However, my constituents feel that that is exactly what has happened.
On 22nd December 2011 Plymouth City Council’s planning committee voted 7 to 5 in favour of granting planning permission to the above application. Amongst a vast range of concerns raised by my constituents, I remain particularly worried about the proximity of the proposed plant to residential houses.
When the dockyard carried out its assessment to ensure safety in regard its nuclear facilities, a buffer zone of 320 metres was first spoken of, which was then reduced to 250 metres following alteration of the plans. There remains a suggested ‘safe distance’ zone of 83 metres. However, the closest home is said to be only 60 metres away from the proposed plant. Many other residential buildings are 250 metres away.
HMNB Dockyard Safety Statement for Proposed EfW Plant at North Yard:
“Considering the pessimism in the above calculation, an explosion from the steam drum will not threaten the nuclear safety implicated buildings of the Dockyard (which are all greater than 83m from the proposed EfW plant) or ships at 14 Wharf (the minimum distance from 14 Wharf to the proposed EfW plant is 320m. Note the distance from the steam drum to the 14 Wharf is significantly greater than 83m).”
The South West Devon Waste Partnership (SWDWP) and MVV Umwelt, the developers, made comparisons to the incineration plant in Sheffield, which has been operational - and effectively so - for some years.
This comparison is inappropriate and misleading. The Sheffield plant is in a predominantly industrial area with very little impact on any residential properties. The proposals for Plymouth are set in proximity of thousands of residential properties and adjacent to AONB, SSSI and SAC areas. The Sheffield plant provides electricity through the district heat scheme to local households, thus delivering a direct benefit to the community. The Plymouth plant will only deliver electricity to the dockyards, with the scope of a small amount being fed into the national grid. There is no clarity whether and where any district heat scheme will benefit the community. It certainly appears that those worst affected by the plant, the residents of Barne Barton, will not benefit.
There have been serious concerns within the community about the democratic process, accountability and transparency of the project from the start. In regard to SWDWP meetings, I did raise my concerns in a letter to Lord Henley earlier last year about local ward Councillors, whose constituents would be directly affected, not being allowed to speak at meetings but instead letting another non-Plymouth Councillor speak, whose ward was nowhere near the site but who was concerned about a rival bid for a site in his patch. I have attached the letter to Lord Henley for your convenience, in which I also raised concerns about the final business case being signed off by the partnership cabinets despite only having to hand a redacted report and no full financial information.
At the planning committee meeting at Plymouth City Council on 22nd December, Cllr Tudor Evans was not allowed to speak because he was advised the proposals were not in his ward. This is incorrect.
Parts of the construction and pipeline work are indeed in Ham ward. In addition, his constituents would be directly affected by the proposals, vista and traffic being two elements.
Furthermore, I am concerned that my letter of representation was only summarised by the head of planning services, whilst others were read out verbatim.
Further concerns regard a press release issued by the developers MVV well in advance of the planning committee’s deciding vote. The meeting on 22nd December finished at 4.10pm, the attached press release displays a time of 11.40am. This is unethical and clearly provides further ammunition for the local community in feeling that they had no say in the process at all and that the decision was made at a much earlier stage.
There is also considerable doubt over any benefits to the community. The s106 agreement does entail some ‘carrot’ but nothing has been clearly defined. It appears that the attitude that has been taken is to proceed with the project at all costs, regardless of any community benefit.
During construction there is talk of some 300 jobs being created over a period of 2 ½ years. Whilst any job creation is welcome in this day and age, these are only temporary. Once operational, the actual employment figure will shrink to 33. The positive impact on the local job market will thus be minimal.
In return, thousands of residents will have their view destroyed. I do appreciate that, in many cases, this is a point to be argued on against the greater good of the project and the benefits for the majority, but this is not the case here. The Tamar River and estuaries have AONB, SSSI, SAC and other accreditations which make them very special and precious to the local community and to tourists alike. The reason given in the EIA scoping report that the area is already industrial in nature, is not entirely factual. The neighbouring site is indeed that of the dockyard but this is a small area in comparison with the views over the Tamar, the estuaries and the hills of Cornwall.
Quality of Life
This is one of the greatest bones of contempt. I am astonished that the developers can claim in their response to the consultation submissions, that there would be no significant negative impact on local residents.
It is acknowledged by both the developers and the council that the plant would generate a constant noise, generated by the 24 hour cooling fans. It is acknowledged that, during construction period, a significant amount of dust and industrial noise would be generated. Residents contacted me because they doubt that any measure will be effective to mitigate dust.
The scoping report confirms that ‘temporary exposure of workers to contaminated soils, dusts and vapours due to ground disturbance during construction’ and ‘adjacent human receptors may be temporarily impacted by the migration of soil dusts during construction’. They are set to keep their windows shut at all times for 2 ½ years, not be able to use their gardens or hang the washing out. There is nothing in the scheme to compensate residents for this impact.
I will again reiterate that the closest property is 60 metres away. There are also valid concerns about the smell from the plant, once operational. Noise would not only be generated from the plant when operational, and machinery during construction time, but also from the many vehicles accessing the site. It
is estimated that an average of 264 lorries would drive on and off the site every day of the week. I am not convinced that a proper assessment has been carried out to evaluate how lorry noise and other noise sources would travel, impacting on residents close by.
All vehicles will use the A38 and Wolseley Road junction to access the site. The A38 is already a busy road because it is the only expressway in and out of Plymouth. Wolseley Road junction is already a busy junction because it is also the entrance to the north side of the dockyards, the second largest employer in Plymouth. There is regular congestion during peak times but impact spreads through the City during incidents. The lorries will be travelling past a primary school and sheltered housing for elderly and disabled people. The local transport report in response to the consultation states that there is capacity for what is already an accident spot to become more dangerous and have fatalities due to size of the vehicles. The traffic measures outlined in the 106 agreement are in my opinion inadequate to address this.
The plans involve a widening and slip road to the junction but there is little confidence by my constituents that this will not impact gravely on the daily traffic. Reassurance could not be given to the planning committee about the capacity of the junction to cope if, in the event of a major incident the gates to the dockyard were closed, resulting in a large number of vehicles queuing at this junction, preventing access to the Incinerator site entrance.
With 264 waste lorries per day on top of the existing traffic, and an average of one lorry every 2.5 minutes, my constituents remain unconvinced of the effects of the mitigation plans.
Again, quoting from the scoping report, the developers make clear that queuing on the public highway will not be permitted. I struggle to see how this can possibly be avoided, and it would also have to apply to other vehicles?
The s106 agreement entails the development and financing of a community trust fund. Whilst this is welcome, so far it has been a very thin layout of plans. The fund is meant to compensate the already very deprived community of Barne Barton for the impact of the plant but there is no real plan how this will operate and be managed.
I do not believe that a lot of thought has gone into this scheme and I have seen projects collapse because the s106 funds had dried up as a result of time lapse. The health report in response to the consultation confirms that the cumulative impact of the incinerator on an already deprived community may result in people suffering depression and other illnesses. Under these circumstances there is little capacity in the community to make use of these funds.
The developers MVV had initially submitted plans to turn Blackies Wood, a neighbouring piece of unmanaged woodland, into a nature reserve to benefit the community. The current plans only include the management of a very small piece of Blackies Wood; the rest will remain unmanaged because of risk of contamination due to an old railway line. The space will only be accessible
through the visitor centre and will not benefit the community in a way it was presented and envisaged; for example dog walkers will not be able to benefit from it. The only designated community space will now be a small piece of grassland in Savage Road. There are plans to plant trees to mitigate the visual impact on the residents and it the Environmental Impact Assessment it is claimed that the residential properties are elevated and overlook the plant.
On inspection the properties are more or less level with the plant and the trees would have to be very tall trees indeed, were they to block out the view of the plant. (Please see photographs and photomontages attached).
Commercial and Industrial Waste
The EIA scoping report confirmed that part of the waste would be C&I waste from local markets but there are unconfirmed reports that there is already talk
of obtaining C&I waste from other localities. I have had doubts over the capacity use of the plant previously and these are not yet alleviated. Viridor are still pushing ahead with their planning application for an incinerator on the outskirts of Plymouth, away from residential areas and easier to access. We may, after all, end up with two plants. All constituents who have contacted me accept we have to deal with our waste problem and opinions are split on which way is the best to tackle it. I share my constituents’ concerns over Plymouth City Council and SWDWP not having fully explored the alternatives before rushing into the current deal.
The Conservation (Natural Habitats etc.) Regulations 1994, with the amendment through the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) states that projects should only be permitted where there is no adverse effect on protected sites, and only in case of no alternative being available should there be consideration of a permit if there is an overriding public interest in the realisation of the project. There was an alternative, there still is. I therefore believe there is scope for claims of violation of this directive.
I struggle to see how the benefits can exceed the costs of this project and therefore urge you to consider calling in the above application.
In accordance with the planning inspectorate’s good practice advice I ask you to investigate the legitimacy of the planning committee’s decision on the grounds of
• development that may conflict with national policies on important matters
• development that could have significant effects beyond its immediate locality
• development that raises significant architectural and urban design issues
• development where there is substantial regional or national controversy
as defined by the Secretary of State for the Environment’s government policy statement on 16th June 1999.
Finally, I would like to point out again that this is not just a ‘local’ decision. It is of ‘regional significance’, a point made during the proceedings by the planning officer.
MP for Plymouth Moor View