Land at Rover Way where the power plant will be built. Photo: Google Maps

Permission for Splott biomass power plant renewed via casting vote

Planning committee had been tied over extending controversial application

THE chair of Cardiff planning committee used his casting vote this week to renew planning permission for a biomass powerplant in Splott.

The final vote at Wednesday’s planning committee came down to a tie as five councillors voted for and five voted against, so the chair, Keith Jones, used his casting vote to make the decision.

Splott councillor Ed Stubbs did not vote due to prior public objections he had made about the power plant. However, he spoke at the meeting as a ward councillor to thank Friends of the Earth for its support and said residents still had concerns.

“It is not clear to the residents that we can fully understand the impact of air pollution of the combination of incinerators, traffic and heavy industry,” he said.

After the meeting, Coun Stubbs said: “I continue to oppose the building of a biomass incinerator. I believe it is wrong on the grounds of air pollution and the need to build back in a greener way from COVID.

“The developer still requires specific planning permission and I will oppose any future application.”

Friends of the Earth Cardiff had previously objected to the power plant, with joint coordinator Gareth Ludkin making a petition signed by 666 people against the development.

“Biomass plants are uneconomical without significant government subsidy,” said Mr Ludkin at the meeting on Wednesday on behalf of Friends of the Earth.

“While the global climate impact of this decision may not be material for the rejection of this application, we believe that it is important to contextualise the plant in these terms. Burning virgin wood transported from abroad, in this case Latvia, is neither clean, green or sustainable.”

The government subsidies biomass plants via the non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme, which offers financial support to biomass power plant developers for 20 years.

Later Mr Ludkin said: “This decision is incredibly disappointing as it flies in the face of local air quality concerns in a highly polluted area of Cardiff, as well as Cardiff Council’s One Planet strategy and our desperate need for a green and fair recovery.

“We should be protecting forests and planting more trees rather than cutting them down. The Drax power plant in Yorkshire already burns more wood than the UK produces in a year and this plant will only fan the flames of greater deforestation in Europe and beyond without regulation.

“Whatever it takes we will fight every element of this planning permission at every step of the way.”

Several councillors also raised concerns about the use of up to 75,000 tonnes imported virgin wood for use as fuel within the power plant.

“Could we see another application to increase this tonnage?” asked Lynn Hudson.

Councillor Keith Parry said: “I really do not see the logic of importing wood from Latvia to burn in a biomass plant in Wales … I’m not very happy about this proposal.”

Council case officer Tim Walter said he could not predict what might happen in the future regarding an increase in the amount of imported wood used. However, he said that any further change would require another decision by the committee.

He also stressed that the plans for the power plant fit with existing planning policy.

“It’s important to remember that this new application has gone to Natural Resources Wales and our ecologist and our air quality officer and … they’ve looked at the issues and they’re satisfied with the issues concerning air pollution, and they’ve assessed in combination with other projects in the vicinity,” he said.

Both Tim Walter and agent Phil Williams emphasised that the decision made on Wednesday was about a two-year renewal of planning permission already granted in 2018 and not a new decision on development.

“Your committee fully debated the merit of the scheme in June 2018 and granted consent. The current application before you is identical in all respects” said council support officer Kate Rees.