Campaigners have said a biomass incinerator in Barry has given ‘misleading’ information about its impact on the environment.
Barry Biomass power plant still has planning hurdles to overcome before it can start operating in full. It would generate electricity for 23,000 homes.
But first its developers must help the Vale of Glamorgan council assess how the biomass plant will impact the environment.
Ian Robinson, principal planner at the council, wrote to Barry Biomass on May 27, asking for a plan of the site, and how the environment will likely be affected.
Mr Robinson said he needed this information on the environment before planners could give the final go-ahead, by discharging several planning conditions.
He will then decide whether the power plant needs a formal environmental impact assessment (EIA) — a process called EIA-screening.
Steve Butler, from Sol Environment and on behalf of Barry Biomass, responded on June 12 saying the assessment wasn’t needed. He sent the council the site plan which was originally given planning permission in 2015.
But campaigners Friends of the Earth said the power plant is “trying to con the council”; and a town councillor has said the information was “misleading”.
They say the power plant has been built with “significant differences” to the original plans in 2015.
Max Wallis, of Friends of the Earth, said: “The main change is the company has taken over substantial land to the north of the 2015 site, and constructed underground settling tanks there.
“They are trying to con the council by not showing the underground tanks, and failing to show the roadway through to the northern site extension.
“We have asked the council to insist on a proper site plan; and also that they suspend further consideration of the 13 conditions until the EIA-screening is resolved.”
David Clarke, a Barry town councillor, said: “This plan does not accurately depict what is on site; the plan may not even accurately depict the present boundaries of the site. What is needed is not some document of historical relevance, but a plan of the actual developed site.
“The applicant, possibly without planning permission, has developed a significant area of land to the north-west of the site and immediately adjacent to the site. This will already have an impact on the design of the site as the level of surface water needing to be collected is greatly increased.
“The provision in place for dealing with surface water may be grossly inadequate. No attempt has been made by the applicant to include the impact of this further development to the north-west of the site on the environmental effects.”
But Barry Biomass denies anything has changed since 2015.
Mr Butler said: “No aspect of the operation, size and scale of the plant have changed since the original planning consent was granted.
“Since the granting of the planning permission, Natural Resources Wales have thoroughly assessed all aspects of the environmental releases associated with the development and have been satisfied that the impacts do not bring about any significant impacts.”
Vale councillors on the planning committee will consider whether to give the final go-ahead — giving permission to discharge conditions — in a public meeting.
But the council suspended public meetings like the planning committee in March at the start of the coronavirus lockdown, and it is unclear when they will begin holding public meetings again.
A spokesperson for Barry Biomass said: “The plant constructed at Barry Biomass UK No.2 conforms to the requirements of the planning conditions that the site was granted in 2015. The design, installation and testing of the plant have observed these conditions and the project has worked in close coordination with local authorities and permitting agencies.
“This relationship continues to this day with regular discussions taking place to ensure all local government authorities are supplied with the latest information on both the construction and operation of the plant.
“Information recently sent to local planning agencies reflects the as constructed plant, with the land to the north of the site currently being returned to its original state prior to construction taking place.”
Alex Seabrook is the local democracy reporter for Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan.