The Barry waste wood incinerator has been granted a permit by Natural Resources Wales to operate and the developer claims to have hit their subsidy deadline – so why is the Barry Docks Incinerator Action Group continuing to fight the incinerator and the related open-air wood store on the dock? Because there is still much to campaign on.
1) The Welsh Government is still considering whether to demand on environmental impact assessment (EIA) on the whole site. We continue to campaign for this. We believe the incinerator is still not safe enough and much more could and should be achieved if it is to be allowed to operate. An EIA would at least ensure proper consideration is given to all areas of concern. It should have been obvious to the applicant/operator of the site that this is a legal requirement but we believe the project was rushed for financial reasons and as a consequence we are the ones taking the gamble on health.
We believe that NRW is at fault in allowing the incinerator site effectively to be extended to include the wood suppliers’ site just along the quay. NRW demanded that on the incinerator site there was no storage in the open of wood chip for burning. NRW has however permitted the pile of wood chip to be kept just along the quayside. This is an outrageous attempt to circumvent an important safety condition and DIAG will argue that this is an extension of the incinerator site and therefore a significant breach (already) of the permit.
We believe that Aviva Investments has been in error throughout by ignoring the need for an EIA and that the Welsh Government is under a legal obligation to call for an EIA.
DIAG also takes the view that the Welsh Government must take stronger steps than calling for an EIA. DIAG is of the view that the Welsh Government must quash the planning permission given by the Vale of Glamorgan Council as that permission was given ultra vires their powers. Put another way, the Vale did not have the power to grant permission unless and until an EIA was provided.
2) We believe the incinerator should not be entitled to the massive public subsidy it is claiming. The original “2010” planning permission was the basis for their preliminary accreditation for the “renewable obligation certificate” subsidy, regulated by Ofgem. This plant – built under the different 2015 planning permission using different technology – is a totally different project that was not the subject of the preliminary accreditation. Aviva Investors is seeking to use that preliminary accreditation to claim the subsidy. We do not believe Ofgem can legally allow this and we are challenging it.
3) We are determined to hold NRW and the Vale of Glamorgan Council to account for procedural failings we believe have occurred in the planning, permitting, and also monitoring so far of this plant during the commissioning phase. This matters because of future monitoring of the plant that NRW will in the main leave to the operator and trust the operator to report themselves for breaches. There are many reasons why local inhabitants should not be happy with such an arrangement. We continue to demand an enquiry into the whole process followed in this matter in order that such debacles may be avoided in future.
4) We continue to campaign for stringent future monitoring of the plant. Biomass’s consultants assured NRW that during testing there would be no black smoke, odour or noise disturbing residents. Despite residents experiencing all of these things, to our knowledge NRW did not question if Biomass had given them accurate information on the testing emissions. This does not inspire confidence that the incinerator will fulfil its promises, or that NRW will be rigorous in holding them to account.
We welcome the council’s SRS department’s decision to buy two high-quality air monitors for Dock View Rd and Holton School, but given Biomass’s own plume projections we demand greater monitoring elsewhere too, including dust monitors. We are concerned the permit conditions on monitoring the chimney stack emissions are not tight enough.
We also want stringent monitoring of the water quality in the dock next to the incinerator, because we all want the watersports centre using the dock to be safe and to succeed as a wonderful resource for our young people.
5) We will resist any attempt to convert the incinerator to burn “refuse-derived fuel” (RDF) ie household rubbish. We are concerned about this because do not believe there is sufficient waste wood in the area to feed into this incinerator, and because we know Biomass has previously told NRW that they may apply to use this fuel in future. We expect our elected representatives to make it clear to the council planning department that any application to convert the plant to RDF must not be rubberstamped as a minor planning variation and must be referred to the elected councillors. The planning and permit was granted for non-hazardous waste wood. Nothing else has been analysed to assess the emissions from the plant and nothing else should be burned.
6) We continue to campaign to ensure the open-air waste wood pile storing wood for the incinerator is properly monitored – including quality of the waste wood, dust control, and checking the water run-off from the site into the dock to avoid pollution.
7) We continue to campaign for adequate contingency planning in event of a major fire or accident. European law requires this but there is nothing in place at present. The permit for the wood store sets out that a major fire would potentially require a police evacuation of nearby residents. We are also concerned that no one seems to have thought through what happens in the event there is a serious accident in the incinerator. As far as we can establish no evacuation plan is in place for the densely populated area next to the incinerator and wood store with many residents who are elderly or disabled or lack their own transport. It appears that the Vale of Glamorgan council is operating a ‘wait and see’ policy which would be unlawful and dangerous for those living and/or working close to the incinerator.
8) We appeal to ABP to work with the town on development plans for the future. The town’s residents do not want a return to the heavy industrial past. Barry has much potential – please do not drag us backwards. ABP claims it wants to be a good neighbour but it is clearly under pressure to perform for its foreign owners.
DIAG is a group of concerned residents from different life and career backgrounds. Some of us are longstanding environmental activists; others have never been involved in this kind of campaign. We are working on this in our spare time and around busy lives, motivated by a desire to protect our children, family and friends.