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Local campaigners are dismayed that power generation could happen 80m from a nursery school.

Photo: Proposed site of the gas plant, Philip Street Scrapyard. Melanie Vaxevanakis

Council planning officers have recommended the council approve a gas power station in St Philip’s Marsh, Lawrence Hill ward, to the dismay of environmental campaigners.

A planning committee of councillors will factor the recommendation into their decision on the fate of the ‘STOR’ (see box) gas plant next Wednesday (14 May).

The planning officer report, published today, argues that there is no legal basis to reject the proposal on the basis of environmental or other concerns, despite its location just 80m from a nursery school.

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The planning committee may still reject the proposal but if this were to happen Conrad Energy, the company behind the proposal, could appeal.

The report states: “Officers are very mindful of the real and perceived impacts of new power stations on human health and the environment.” It concluded that the company had submitted ‘robust technical reports’ and that there were ‘no material planning consideration that would warrant refusal’.

Stuart Phelps, a member of the campaign group RADE (Residents Against Dirty Energy) does not accept the officers’ conclusions.

“[It’s] outrageous. Completely unacceptable. How does this fit in with the council going for carbon neutral? What is this going to do to air quality? Any burning creates pollution. This is still 80m from a nursery school,” he said.

“It’s purely about making money: it’s got nothing to do with energy security, nothing to do with the future of the city.
This is simply a small group of people out to make money”

The council passed a climate emergency motion in November last year and has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

“It’s purely about making money: it’s got nothing to do with energy security, nothing to do with the future of the city,” says Phelps. “This is simply a small group of people out to make money.”

St Philip’s Marsh is currently a light industrial area but is earmarked for significant change and development into a residential and workplace location in the council’s new Local Plan, currently in development.

However as the Plan is not yet finalised, the report states: “There is no local or national planning policy which prohibits a new gas-fired generator in principle; policy is clear that renewables should be supported, but that there is still a place for gas-fired generators in maintaining energy security in times of high demand and short supply.”

RADE objected to a previous application for a diesel power station in St Philip’s Marsh, which was eventually rejected on appeal after an 18 month battle during which RADE raised funds to produce an independent air quality impact assessment which refuted the claims made by the company behind the plant, Plutus Energy.

The Planning Committee will take place on Wednesday 15 May at City Hall, 1pm.

What is a ‘STOR’ facility?

STOR stands for ‘short term operating reserve’. STOR electricity generation facilities function intermittently to provide extra energy to the overburdened National Grid.They are intended to support the National Grid at peak times of energy use – particularly due to the increasing use of sustainable energy sources by the Grid, which can be less predictable in output.

However, critics of the use of these small supplementary plants say that they only increase the reliance on the burning of dirty fuels in often urban locations at a time which the system should be radically decarbonising.

Battery storage technology could also lessen the need for these so-called ‘STOR’ (short term operational reserve) power plants. The technology, which began to proliferate within the last couple of years, stores excess energy from the grid in times of high input for use during times of high demand.

Bristol’s first battery storage facility was opened in 2017 in Lockleaze, on a site which had previously been the battle ground between locals and another power station.

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