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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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Group vows to fight Barrow biomass plant plans

OPPONENTS of a proposed biomass plant in Barrow say it will be a blight on the town.

The newly-formed Furness Opposes Biomass (FOB) group has organised a public meeting tomorrow to discuss the plans.

It says the biomass plant will:

l spoil the landscape

l pollute the atmosphere

l pose a fire hazard

l increase traffic levels

Centrica says there is no substance to the group’s claims. But the the group says it is being ‘FOBbed’ off.

A relatively new technology, biomass refers to the burning of biological material to generate electricity.

In the UK there are five dedicated biomass power stations, a further nine which can co-fire coal and biofuels and upwards of 10 in the planning process.

Centrica’s plans are for an 80MW biomass plant at Roosecote.

With a 90-metre high stack – 30 metres higher than the existing chimney – and a 70-metre boiler house, some residents argue the new power station would tower over Barrow and spoil the landscape.

FOB was set up after a group of 20 like-minded residents joined forces to voice their concerns.

Group spokesman Scott Symon lives at Liddle Close, just a few hundred metres from Roosecote.

Although one of his main issues is with the government’s subsidies for renewable energy like biomass – which he described as a “national scandal” – his primary concern is the impact on public health.

“A biomass station will affect the air quality across the whole of Barrow,” he argued. “We’ve been in contact with the American Lung Association who say biomass power stations shouldn’t be built and we’re very worried a new station would emit high levels of pollution.”

In response, Centrica said air quality will remain “within all air quality standards set to protect health, including strict compliance with UK and EU regulations and World Health Organisation standards”.

Other residents had raised concerns about the emission of arsenic from biomass, but Centrica said no wood containing arsenic would be burnt at Roosecote.

The group also criticised Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock, who was quick to welcome Centrica’s plans as a major investment, which would provide hundreds of construction jobs. Mr Symon said: “Mr Woodcock has already said he is in favour of the power station. He was too quick in coming out in favour of it. He told me it was all about the jobs.”

In his column, Mr Woodcock responded: “We need to get this right and I look forward to meeting the residents to discuss their worries. But I make no excuses for being determined to ensure Furness’ huge potential as part of the Energy Coast brings as many jobs here as possible.”

Another of FOB’s concerns is the amount of public input into the plans. Mr Symon said instead of distributing 37,000 leaflets to homes across Barrow, Centrica should have sent letters to all residents.

FOB also argues there will be an increased amount of traffic to and from the plant, to transport waste.

Responding, Centrica said: “In response to stakeholder concerns we dropped plans to deliver fuel by road and we will now only use this option in the event of an emergency. The maximum number of vehicle movements will be 40 per week (20 in and 20 out) and this will be limited to Monday to Friday between 8am and 7pm. We will review the suitability of roads, but expect to use the main roads into Barrow rather than the coast road.”

Members of FOB have followed with interest the media coverage of a large-scale fire at Tilbury, a joint biofuel and coal power station in Essex operated by RWE. The cause of the fire, which required more than 120 firefighters to bring it under control, is still being investigated but FOB claims the blaze highlights fire hazards in storing large quantities of biomass fuel.

“Some biomass stations also have massive open sheds, which we argue could further increase the chances of a fire,” Mr Symon said.

Centrica was reluctant to comment on the fire at Tilbury because of the ongoing investigation, but pointed out the Essex station had not been purpose-built for biomass, as Roosecote would be, and there was a possibility dust from coal could also have contributed to the fire. A spokeswoman added: “We will not have any open sheds on site. Fuel will be delivered, stored and managed in chip or pellet form and in enclosed areas to control any dust.”

FOB also argues the power station will reduce public access to the coastal areas around Roosecote, but Centrica said the footpath diversion was being introduced by United Utilities, which operates a neighbouring water plant, because of the water firm’s plans to build a new storm water retention facility. Tony Jarvis, Centrica’s head of thermal projects, vowed to work alongside residents and said the company continued to welcome feedback from residents via the website www.centrica.com/roosecotebiomass.

Mr Jarvis added: “This isn’t just about jobs, it’s also about energy. There is a need for new power stations in the UK and to replace ageing stations.”

Roosecote has been home to a power station since the 1950s when a coal plant was opened by the Central Electricity Board. After generating electricity for more than 30 years, the power station was demolished and replaced with a gas-fired station in 1991.

l Furness Opposes Biomass is holding a public meeting tomorrow(6/4) at Roose School from 7pm. The meeting includes a presentation by Ian Lander from Biofuel Watch anti-biomass lobby group.

Have your say

i strongly oppose this plant and dont want it on my doorstep polluting my town

Posted by peter lashmar on 8 May 2012 at 18:27

think the people who are all for this biomass plant in Barrow should attend the meeting tonight then comment

Posted by Loz on 6 April 2012 at 17:30

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