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New designs for Southampton biomass plant revealed
THESE are the visions energy bosses hope could finally win residents round to the idea of a huge £300m power plant on their doorsteps.
The Daily Echo can today reveal the three new designs for a controversial 100 megawatt wood-fuelled power station at Southampton’s docks.
Helius Energy hopes it will be a case of third time lucky after its previous plans for a biomass plant sparked outrage from residents living just yards from the proposed “giant polluting tin shed”.
The firm will next week launch another consultation on its aims to bring a renewable energy facility to the city, capable of powering 200,000 homes. It will write to around 25,000 homes and businesses in Southampton and on the Waterside, as well as holding a string of public exhibitions to show off its plans and try to ease residents’ fears.
Bosses say they will listen to which of the marine, wave or hi-tech designs people like best before putting one forward to planners.
Last year, Helius’ controversial bid to build on land at Western Docks caused outrage from people living nearby, horrified at the “monstrous”
prospect of a 100mhigh chimney stack and other buildings towering over their homes. A campaign group, No Southampton Biomass, was quickly set up to fight the plans and gained support from hundreds of people. It even led to a protest march being held.
As well as the visual blot dominating the area, fears were raised about the safety of having a power station just 250m from homes in Millbrook and Freemantle following fires at similar plants around the country.
Campaigner Chris Jenkins, of Testwood Road, said last year: “Nobody wants this monstrosity anywhere near their homes. We will never give up our fight until they say they won’t come here.”
Politicians have also condemned the scheme. Southampton’s Labour group, which swept to power in last week’s council elections, made a pre-election pledge to fight the plant, which was also opposed by the previous Tory administration.
Labour said in its manifesto: “We will stand shoulder to shoulder with officers, political colleagues and most importantly the community against inappropriate developments in our city, such as the latest plans for the biomass power station.”
But because the scheme is classed as a “nationally significant infrastructure project”
the final say over whether it gets the go-ahead or not will not lie with councillors, but with the national planning inspectorate.
Helius, which has already revised its plans once but faced further criticism for failing to provide sufficient notice of public events, now says it has “significantly”
altered the proposals again.
Bosses argue the scheme will be good for Southampton.
The firm, which claims the plant will create 100 direct and indirect jobs and contribute around £10m a year to the city’s economy, said the new version would see the facility twice as far from the nearest residents, lower in height and with a smaller building footprint.
It is also hoping to engage with people by giving them the chance to influence which of the three architectdesigned approaches for the external design of the power station is adopted.
Paul Brighton, Helius Energy’s planning director, said: “We listened carefully to what people had to say in our consultation last year and we believe our revised proposals have really addressed those concerns.
“We are committed to carrying out a full and inclusive public consultation that gives people detailed information about our scheme so they can make their minds up based on the facts.”
It said its power station would save the equivalent of 470,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from being belched into the air compared to an average fossil fuel plant.
The consultation will run from May 14 to August 3, before Helius applies to the National Infrastructure Directorate of the Planning Inspectorate “later in the year”.