Burwell residents gear up to pull the plug on power plant proposal

Newmarket Journal June 2013
Newmarket Journal June 2013

Residents in Burwell are mobilising to form an action group to fight plans for a gas power plant in the village which they believe will blight their lives.

Two meetings have already been held which have been attended by hundreds of villagers and on Tuesday some residents were forced to stand outside as parish councillors re-considered their response to the proposal for land in Reach Road which they had originally agreed to raise no objection to.

The proposal by London-based company IGP Solar PV Plant Number 6 Ltd, is to install 20 gas-powered generators which would be used by the National Grid to supply energy at times of high demand. Each generator is powered by an 89-litre engine, equivalent to 1,000 cars, producing a total of enough power for two cities the size of Cambridge.

At Tuesday’s parish council meeting at the Reading Room, residents were furious that the council had not made more effort to make the village aware of the extent of the proposal which lead campaigner John Clarke admitted he had only found out about by accident when his mother had been looking at the district council’s planning portal and had typed in the wrong reference number.

He warned that the noise produced by the plant could reach ‘prosecutable levels’ while possible emissions of nitrous oxide, ozone, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide could all cause respiratory irritation and other health problems to nearby residents.

“Nitrous oxide air pollution emission from the plant, which causes acid rain and heath problems, will be blown over the village by the dominant south westerly wind. For a village famous for its clunch stone, which is very sensitive to acid erosion this is not good news for our heritage,” he said.

“There is no need to locate the plant where they plan on the edge of the village. Burwell has the super grid connection capable of powering London, with one of the largest transformers in the UK located at the substation on the edge of the village and yet they want us to believe we need to generate fossil fuel power within the village.”

Parish council vice-chairman Robin Dyos, said the council’s original decision was based on the information it had been given at the time.

“We now know more about it,” he said. And he told residents: “We are here for the people of Burwell and we will back you up when you say you don’t want this.

Cllr Hazel Williams added: “I am not saying what has happened is right because it was not, but it was not done with any intention to deceive anyone.”

The meeting heard the planning authority East Cambridgeshire District Council had asked the applicant about issues surrounding noise and air pollution and that the application would be discussed by planners in November, not next month as originally planned.

Those opposed to the plan said neighbouring wildlife habitats could be harmed by the plant.

They have also pointed out that the plant would bring no employment benefit as it would be unmanned with only occasional visits by staff for maintenance.

Mr Clarke said villagers now had to organise themselves and campaign to fight the proposal. “In defence of the parish council, the application was very misleading. The company’s name even has solar in the title which suggests it is something good for the environment.”

Jane Crichton, a spokeswoman for the applicant, said: “The developments are proposed in the context of a growing demand for security for the UK’s electricity supply and is defined as a Flexible Generation Facility (FGF). National Grid are having to call upon these FGFs increasingly due to the growth in renewable energy sources such as wind and solar which are unpredictable and intermittent.

“FGFs provide backup and a safety margin when the Grid requires it and is called upon within 10 minutes to avoid blackouts. As FGFs are only needed in times of low supply and high demand they do not run 24 hours a day, typically they will be called upon Monday-Friday in the early evening. The development is well below the 2020 proposed emission standards and will achieve the 2025 emission standards from day one.”