Help us reach our campaign target: Become a member
The Bristol Cable

Campaigners win power station battle


Calls for a ‘no-burn’ policy on fuel generation within the city following tense campaign to protect air quality in Lawrence Hill.

Photos: Lorna Stephenson

“We need to get a ‘no-burn’ policy on Bristol council’s statute book.”

The Lawrence Hill power station was rejected by the council’s planning committee on Wednesday, to the relief of campaigners who were appalled at the plan to run a 48-generator plant in an area of dangerously poor air quality.

Bruce Yates, a member of RADE (Residents Against Dirty Energy) said he was “amazingly relieved”, while Cllr Hibaq Jama, for Lawrence Hill, declared, “I am completely and utterly ecstatic about the whole thing.”

The case was a novelty: Firstly, in what it exposed about planning policy and air quality, and secondly, the committed grassroots efforts that fought against both Plutus Energy and the council bureaucracy.

The council’s planning officers recommended approval of the application despite Plutus Energy admitting that the plant’s emissions would contribute to exceedences of legal limits of nitrogen dioxide. The pollutant contributes to respiratory disease and is dangerous to human health – but Plutus Energy, and then by extension the planning officers, deemed it “insignificant”.

The location of the proposed development was in the Air Quality Management Zone and around 200 metres from St Philip’s Marsh Nursery School.

“Traditionally, you just accepted the air quality advice and you didn’t question it,” explains Liz Beth, a member of RADE and an ex-planning officer herself. “But what’s changed now is air quality management zones have been declared because we are in breach of legal requirements. That changes things completely. That’s what we argued today.

“Now planning authorities have a duty to help with improving air quality as well whatever their experts say.”

rade-celebrate-28-09-16 Campaigners celebrate outside City Hall, including Simon Holmes, Bruce Yates and Liz Beth (second, fourth and fifth from left respectively)

Taking on the machine

There is little doubt that the case would have gone differently had the local community not been so persistent and thorough in their campaign, taking on what they perceived as flaws in Plutus Energy’s scientific methodology and conclusions.

The council was forced to defer the decision on the power station in July as RADE had submitted a new independent air quality assessment. Yet more evidence was submitted from their independent consultants before this week’s committee, something residents clubbed together to pay for from their own pockets.

Cllr Jama said: “The solution here was about including grassroots community members and supporting them to drive it through, so it became much more than just a protest against something, we’re also putting forward an alternative as to what we want.”

She said the case was “so much about the impact that local community members can have when it comes to taking on the big bureaucratic procedures that the council has. I’m so pleased that we won today.”

A no-burn city?

Could Bristol City Council put something in its statute books to ban future attempts at emissions-producing energy generation within the city?

That’s what several of the campaigners on this case would like to now see happen.

“Now we really have to steel ourselves for an appeal and to concentrate on getting something on the statute that stops this being a viable option anywhere,” says Bruce Yates. “We need to get a ‘no-burn’ policy on Bristol council’s statute book.”


Report a comment. Comments are moderated according to our Comment Policy.

Post a comment

Mark if this comment is from the author of the article

By posting a comment you agree to our Comment Policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related content

Local experts condemn Sunak’s draughty homes U-turn as likely to cost lives

Last week, the government announced it would not be raising the minimum energy efficiency standards of privately rented properties – which will leave thousands of renters living in cold homes.

Bristol’s flood defences are being pushed to their limit. What is the city’s long-term plan, and will it be enough?

The council is searching for an extra £100 million to fund future flood defences to protect low-lying areas of the city. While residents call for greater action, the Cable looks across the North Sea to Rotterdam for inspiration.

Urban growers are quietly laying the ground for a food revolution. Can it become a reality?

Growing fruit and veg close to home is better for our health – and could help keep us fed when climate change disrupts supply chains. Could doing more of it provide a secure, affordable, and sustainable way of meeting Bristol's needs?

Campaigners ‘marry’ River Avon as battle against water sewage pollution continues

Since the mayor’s decision in November not to grant special status to a popular swimming spot, sewage has been discharged into the Avon for the equivalent of 35 days.

This week in Bristol: Demonstrators say council is “refusing to correct” conservation mistake

After accidentally giving a landowner permission to cut down an ancient Bristol hedgerow with protected status as a biodiversity haven, the council say there’s nothing they can do.

Why Bristol needs to build a sustainable food system – before disaster strikes

Bristol is recognised as a leading city in sustainable food. But with international food systems creaking and the impact of climate change on the horizon, even more needs to be done.

Join our newsletter

Get the essential stories you won’t find anywhere else

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter to get our weekly round-up direct to your inbox every Saturday

Join our newsletter

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter

Get our latest stories & essential Bristol news
sent to your inbox every Saturday morning