Bedminster Green energy centre – the pros and cons

July 28 2017
Energy centre – the pros and cons

Bedminster Green energy centre – the pros and cons

A statement from WHaM, Windmill Hil and Malago planning group, on the proposed Urbis energy centre next to Windmill Hill City Farm.

Following is a Voice story including the views of Richard Clarke, managing director of Urbis.

Energy Centre for Bedminster Green

As part of plans to develop the Malago Green area of Bedminster a new company, South Bristol Energy, formed by developer Richard Clarke of Urbis, is planning to build an Energy Centre to heat the new developments and/or to provide power to the national grid.

To this end they held a public consultation at Windmill Hill Community Centre last month to show people what was planned and to garner local opinion.

We at WHaM – Windmill Hill and Malago planning group – are very concerned about the emissions from an energy centre and also by claims made by Mr Clarke that the nearby Windmill Hill City Farm were in support of an energy centre, and that WHaM supported the proposal.

Both these claims are incorrect. Steve Sayers, chief executive of Windmill Hill City Farm, has said that while the Farm would be ‘happy to discuss provision of power’ from the energy centre if it was built, ‘to provide their heat and energy requirements’, they are still unclear about the emissions that would come from it and what impact it would have on the surrounding neighbourhood. He has said that the Farm would want any development to enhance the entrance the back of the Farm (the Clarke Street gate), improve the Malago river and the pedestrian and cycle route along Clarke Street.

WHaM have many worries about proposals. At the public consultation, the community were not given any detail about emissions, making it very hard to work out what the impact on the wellbeing of the community will be. We understand that basic details such as how many hours a day the machines will be on, how much power they will create, and the type and make of engine has been made available to select specialist groups, but these have not been given to the community. We are very disappointed about this. This information has been requested by at least one member of the community but the developer, as yet, has not replied. 

Pollution modelling for the power station had not been done at the time of the consultation so Urbis currently has no idea if the emissions will prove harmful to the local area. We are particularly worried about the effect on the Windmill Hill City Farm nursery, and the St Mary Redcliffe primary school, as both will be immediately downwind of the emissions.

Urbis has said they are almost ready to submit the power station for planning permission, even though they don't yet know if it will be harmful, and have said that they will present results at a public meeting at the end of August. WHaM feel that it is essential the accurate and verifiable emissions data is made public. We are worried that they are so invested in this application at this point, that they will proceed even if the emissions proved to be harmful, and that they will be able to cover it up with complicated reports which the public won’t be able to understand. We are worried that pollution is likely to be a problem in this location because of how close the chimney will be to a hill.  The area is 100yds from a pollution black spot on Bedminstar Parade.

None of the experts at the consultation recognised that there are more pollutants than nitrogen oxides that come out of gas CHPs. Nitrogen oxide emissions are worrying enough, particularly because of the lasting harm they cause to DNA and respiratory health, with small children most at risk. We have found evidence that shows that a small amount of the coolants and lubricants used in an industrial gas power engine inevitably get combusted with the gas. This causes the release of small but potentially harmful amounts of lead, metals, and other highly toxic substances such as formaldehyde and arsenic. The evidence discussing this has been forwarded to the developer for consideration by a member of the community, but they have not yet responded. 

At the consultation Richard Clarke told an attendee that the power station he wants to build could be viable just by selling the energy back to the national grid, and that it does not depend on anticipated building projects. We are worried that he just wants to build this power station to make money from selling electricity. 

One of the experts at the presentation told a member of the community that they would not send their child to the city farm nursery if the power station was built. 

The community and planning department need clear information about emissions to be able to properly assess the implications of building a district heating plant in a residential area. No planning permission should be granted until this information has been provided and independently checked.


Windmill Hill Community Planning Group






THE ENERGY centre proposed to go next to Windmill Hill City Farm will not rain down dangerous pollution on the farm or St Mary Redcliffe primary school, says the man behind the plan, Urbis managing director Richard Clarke.

Mr Clarke said details of the emissions form the plant weren’t ready for the public meeting in June, but would be released soon.

“I couldn’t live with myself if I felt we were polluting the air,” he said. “Do you really think we would be allowed to put the health of children and the public in jeopardy?”

The exhaust from the 100ft chimney would be ejected at 45mph and so wouldn’t fall to earth nearby. It will disperse at about 1,000ft, said Mr Clarke.

The gas-fired plant could generate heat and electricity for at least 1,243 homes in and around Bedminster Green.

It will produce less of the harmful particulates – PM10s and PM 2.5s – than the energy sources currently used for the three nearby council blocks – Northfield, Holroyd and Polden house. Even when 1,000 new homes are built the energy centre will still have reduced emissions compared to current uses, he said.  A similar plant being built in Cambridge has been assessed as having an “imperceptible” effect on NOx, the other main harmful air pollutant.