Protest over new plan for diesel power plant

Published on: 29 Apr 2016

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ALMOST 300 objections have been made by members of the public and community groups to the planning application to put 48 diesel generators at St Philip’s Marsh on a site close to a nusery school and homes, including Paintworks.

A decision on the application by London firm Plutus Energy is expected to be made by a planning committee during June – although a council spokesman was unable to give a date.

The plan has brought an almost unprecedented level of opposition, with objections filed from residents of Totterdown and Arnos Vale, as well as further afield in Knowle, Brislington, Redfield and St Anne’s.

The plant, off Feeder Road, is intended to provide back-up to the National Grid to provide electricity at times of peak demand, mainly in the winter.

The phasing out of coal-fired power stations, and the closure of elderly nuclear plants, is expected to cause an “energy gap” in the next five to 20 years before renewable generation is able to meet demand.

Plutus says diesel power can generate power for brief periods when low winds mean renewables cannot cope, and has promised the plant will not be in use for more than “an absolute maximum” of 200 hours a year.

Liz Beth, objecting on behalf of Bristol environmental group RADE – Residents Against Dirty Energy – doubted that such a limited use would be economic.

“The Environment Agency define peaking plants to be plants that operate for 1,500 hours or less of the year, so unless there were strict planning conditions limiting the hours of operating, this limit could be massively exceeded,” she wrote.

Even then, she said, “it is likely that a condition restricting hours of use could be overridden when grid emergencies get worse, as they are scheduled to over the next five years or so.” 

Plutus withdrew a similar application late last year after an earlier wave of opposition. The new plan uses biodiesel – made from vegetable oil – which it says will cut emissions of pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide or NOx to within acceptable limits. 

It says the plant would not exceed pollution limits at any residential site even if it ran for 3,600 hours a year – though this scenario would see limits breached briefly at the latest Phase 3 flats at Paintworks.

However, campaigners say the cumulative effect of diesel exhausts already breaks WHO limits at many places in Bristol.

Liz Beth said: “Pollution is likely to be particularly problematic in St Philip’s, where it is often trapped at ground level. 

“The proximity of a nursery makes this proposal totally unacceptable due to the lifelong damage caused by exposure to pollutants at a young age,” she added. 

Simon Holmes, the head at St Philip’s Marsh nursery school in Albert Crescent, wrote in another objection: “I am shocked that this application has been put in again without any consideration whatsoever of the nursery school, which is approximately 200m from the proposed site. This is where the children play outside.”

Councillors including the members for Windmill Hill, Sam Mongon and Deb Joffe, have queued to add their opposition.

One objector from Paintworks said the plan failed to address the  impact on the 210 flats now being built there. “Hundreds of additional flats will overlook this installation and no doubt will be unaware of the potential harm to their health that opening their windows may cause.”

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