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The Bristol Cable

Energy company make second attempt to build an inner city power station in the city’s most deprived ward.

Feature photo: Mathias/Flickr CC

Lawrence Hill residents are once again faced with a new diesel power station after Plutus Energy submitted another planning application for the same site it withdrew previous plans for only last November.

The application was submitted to the council on February 16th, and details plans for 48 generators, 12 transformers and associated infrastructure on the Feeder Road site, only 200 metres from St Philips Marsh Nursery School. As before, the plant will be a Flexible Generation Facility (FGF).

Plutus were forced to withdraw their previous plans after a community campaign and over 130 objections. Lawrence Hill is one of the most polluted wards in the city and is the most deprived, and the development occurs as public concern over Bristol’s air pollution problem is growing. The two Lawrence Hill councillors, Hibaq Jama and Marg Hickman, are vehemently opposed to the plant.

“While it is frustrating, it is not unexpected to have a re-submission by Plutus,” says Bruce Yates, an organiser with RADE Bristol (Residents against Dirty Energy), “This does seem normal practice for these companies. They test the the community, try a second time with a superficial tweak then it moves on to a battle of attrition, with regular applications until the local community is out of steam.”

The last planning application was withdrawn only after the council Planning Department recommended refusal of the plan days before it was due to go to a Planning Committee – an exceptional measure for plans considered particularly contentious.

The play garden at St Philips Marsh nursery school. Credit: St Philips Marsh Nursery School.

The play garden at St Philips Marsh Nursery School. Credit: St Philips Marsh Nursery School.

Simon Holmes, Head of St Philips Marsh Nursery School, also criticised the company’s recent actions as “underhand” and “sneaky”.

“They have completely ignored and failed to address the nursery school which is the closest thing to it,” he said, “People are really disgusted.” He also emphasised that although the site is industrial, it is a heavily populated area and there are already high rates of asthma. “I can’t see them putting it in Clifton,” says Holmes.

The main difference this time – which Plutus will be keen to emphasise – is that the new generators will run on bio-diesel, a less polluting alternative to traditional diesel made from vegetable fats rather than fossil fuels.

The Air Quality Assessment submitted by Plutus states the 1-hour average NO2 concentrations will be 57% less than for its previous plan. However, they concede that all figures are estimates as the new fuel hasn’t been tested in the proposed generators.

Where this logic fails in this case is that the proposed power plant is not replacing an existing one. The pollution – from a bio-deisel plant or not – will be in addition to the pollution that kills 200 Bristolians per year.

Yates also points out that the type of engines and bio-diesel they specify is a set up which can be switched to fossil diesel fuel with no modifications. He is suspicious of the commitment to bio-diesel in the long term, particularly as EU subsidies of the industry will cease by 2020: “They can revert to fossil diesel at any time in future if they wish or cost dictates”.

An open meeting organised by RADE Bristol will be held tomorrow – Tuesday 8 March – at Baggator, All Hallows Road, Easton, at 7pm.

See the Cable’s previous features on the government’s push for more small, polluting, urban power plants, and the silent killer of air pollution.

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