Two Towns Forum 14 September, 2010 Blue-NG / 2OC

It was a record turnout to a Blackrod and Horwich Two Towns forum, hosted in the Blackrod Community Centre last night. At the start of the new school year, approaching 200 local people from the sleepy village of Blackrod,  – it was standing room only and was an indication of sentiment to the proposed power plant in the area.

 The meeting kicked off with a 25 minute presentation, which clearly frustrated many in the audience due to its lack of appropriate content and detail. The main point conveyed were that the size of the proposed plant will be slashed c50% to 19.5 MWe. (editors comment:  rather similar in size to the Southall plant, which was cancelled after the Secretary of State agreed that there would be an unacceptable deterioration in air quality.) This had not surprised many in the audience, as the original proposal had been obscenely inneficient  for a CHP plant due to the amount of waste heat it would have produced, which many residents had been told was necessary for the safe operation of the plant due to variable demand from the facility. One person commented it is like applying for a skyscraper in a row of thatched cottages and then saying we have reduced it to a block of flats.

The visual impact of the 1 hectare facility is not believed to have significantly changed and the sheer size and location can hardly be considered a sensitive exploitation of a renewable energy source.

A throw away comment that in terms of the visual appearance of the facility “you will loose it as you climb up the hill” did nothing to re-assure residents along Chorley Road and Waterhouse Nook and those who use the public footpaths  in the area  or indeed the A6 who do not benefit  from the new landscape screening. Unfortunately the detail was missing and people who had attended the various public meetings have been left little wiser for the experience.

Another point was that Blue NG would donate a proportion of turnover to the community, estimated at c £50,000 per annum. This was almost met with anger by the audience – with one person suggesting it did not count as a Very Special Circumstance, for the inappropriate development in the Greenbelt. Blue NG however should be commended for the gesture, and whilst they will receive 10s of million pounds in government subsidies, they must have realised how local people would react – to what is actually a positive move.

Blue NG further went on to tell the audience that the £1,000,000 in business rates would help the local community. The first question of the night however shot this down in flames, as business rates are pooled by central government and re-distributed to local councils according to the number of people living in the area – benefit to Blackrod £83 ????

The second question of the night was John Price – chair of BHEAG, who first thanked Blue NG for their c £50,000 annual gesture to the community should planning permission be granted..  In various correspondence to BHEAG Blue NG have indicated that they would consider using up to 9 different fuels at the plant, rather than just the headline Rapeseed oil and Used Vegetable Oil. The question was whether these fuels would be considered in the formal application, together with their emissions.  The answer seemed to avoid the question – read into that “no”

The night didn’t improve – statements such as “We are proud of our record”  and “We do not use palm oil” did not sit well with the audience, as Blue NG do not currently have a biomass plant, they do not have a record and they don’t use anything.

The issue of large tankers turning into the site was raised-on what is one of the most dangerous roads in the county. Solar powered warning signs didn’t re-assure residents familiar with the area. Due to lack of time the widening of the public footpath to allow tanker access and the resultant visual damage to the A6 and  were not discussed, nor was the imapct of getting any power produced to the sub station – understood tobe over 7 KM away from the plant.

Given the number of recent fires in the area the safety of the unmanned site was questioned – the audience were unconvinced with the answers.

Blue NG were keen to impress on the audience that they considered Palm Oil to be unsustainable and environmentally unfriendly and they would only be using rapeseed oil. When considered with used vegetable oil, the UK rapeseed oil surplus would be sufficient to fuel approximately 7-10 plants the size of the reduced Blackrod plant,  Blue NG did not see the need for futher UK planting.  The impact on the now regular European shortfall resulting in increased European Palm oil imports ignored.

The cost of of not using palm oil at the Blackrod site was estimated by Blue NG to be in the region of £6,000,000 per annum. 

The name Blue-NG is likely to change as National Grid pull out of the joint venture with 20C.  The latter are believed to be in complex legal discussions with National Grid and trying to raise finance, not least of all because the building of the prosed plants appears to rely on National grid financing the debt. Blue NG indicated that they were talking to potential financial backers in both the USA and the Middle East.

The audience were further frustrated when questioning was halted due to limitation of time – with members of the audience clearly attributing the blame to the 25 minute ramble at the beginning.

The why Blackrod question has still not been  answered convincingly. Andrew Mercer CEO of 2OC states that there are over 12,000 gas pressure reduction stations in the UK and hopes to be generating 10 GW  by this method within ten years -thats nearly 600 plants the size of Blackrod (and an awful lot of rapeseed oil) – so early on this ambitious target do Very Special Circumstances exist ? 

Discussions with Blue NG post the meeting indicated that they had clearly not been aware of the cumulative effects of developments in the area and many of the local issues.

The Blackrod “Powering the Future” leaflet produced by Blue NG, states in the current tense “We do not have a negative impact on our neighbours”  Given the current anxiety in the area this does not hold true and promises about the future, when the plants are built remain unconvincing.

An application has not yet been submitted to Bolton Council if this does happen more detailed objectons will be raised.

On behalf of the group we would like to thank everyone who attended and assure you of our continued commitment to the community.

The Bolton News

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