Avonmouth biomass gasifier plans rejected by Bristol City Council

avonmouth_biomass_city_hall_protest-1415228192Update: The application has since been approved by the Planning Inspectorate, following an appeal by the developer. However, the plant was never built and the planning consent has expired.

Last night campaigners won a significant victory in their battle to stop a highly inefficient and polluting biomass gasifier in Avonmouth. Bristol City Councillors voted to reject Nexterra and Balfour Beatty’s planning application, despite it having been recommended for approval.

Local residents, air pollution campaigners and environmental group Avon Coalition Against Big Biofuels with active support from Biofuelwatch held a demonstration ahead of yesterday’s Development Committee meeting. Some of the protesters wore dust masks to illustrate the threats of increased air pollution and wood dust exposure that the plant would have brought had it been approved, in an already heavily polluted area.

The proposed plant would have had an efficiency of around 20%, which is less than virtually any other type of biomass power plant. It would burn 75,000 tonnes of waste wood that would be in high demand from existing industries such as wood-panel manufacturers.

Avonmouth resident Ian Robinson said ahead of the meeting: “For many years, Avonmouth residents have suffered from high levels of air pollution and wood dust. Many of us experience health problems or fear for our children’s long-term health. There are already six approved biomass plants and waste incinerators in Avonmouth. If built, each of these will worsen our air quality and impact public health further. Approving a seventh such plant would be unconscionable.”

Michael Andrews from Avon Coalition Against Big Biofuels said: “This plant will burn 75,000 tonnes of waste wood a year, much of it treated with toxic chemicals. This wood is in high demand from existing industries, especially panel board production. It will waste 80% of the energy contained in the wood, a worse record than other biomass power stations. We cannot see how such a plan could possibly be approved as a so-called sustainable development.”

Campaigners expect the developers to appeal so watch this space for more from the campaign!

On a related but more disappointing note, the Green Investment Bank has just provided £18.2 million in finance to a similar Nexterra scheme in Birmingham, a biomass gasifier that looks set to become the UK’s least efficient plant at around 20% efficiency.