Climping gas power plant branded as ‘greenwashing’ is deferred

Thursday, 3 March 2022 20:45

By Jessica Hubbard - Local Democracy Reporter

Northwood Farm, Yapton Road, Google Streetview

Councillors have deferred an application for a gas power plant at a rural Climping location.

An application to build a ‘flexible gas fuelled power plant’ at Northwood Farm, Yapton Road, was deferred by Arun District Council’s planning committee on Wednesday (March 2) after one councillor branded it as ‘greenwashing’.

Applicant Conrad Energy Limited says the plans would help provide backup fossil fuel energy to assist with the transition to renewables.
This is because natural gas is expected to be a ‘crucial part’ of energy supply until at least 2050, according to a report by council planning officers.

“The flexible gas generators are proposed to prevent a ‘lights out’ scenario in the local area, whereby the demand for electricity exceeds available supply,” said the officers.

But residents and councillors pointed out that the plant would not produce renewable energy itself and would produce methane – a greenhouse gas which contributes to climate change.

Colin Humphris, chairman of Clymping Parish Council, said: “There is a requirement for them to show that there are no alternative sites as this is countryside.

“The parish council is also unaware of any peak time power disruption ever having happened in the area.”

But national planning policy says Conrad Energy does not need to prove there is a need for more energy in the area for the application to be approved.

One resident, Samantha Hodson, said: “Our garden runs right next to this plant, our house is a family haven and the plan was for us, our three children, and one day our grandchildren to enjoy living in it into the future.

“My youngest son suffers from severe asthma, and his doctors have confirmed his condition will certainly worsen if he is breathing in any dust or methane caused by emissions from industrial buildings.”

Ms Hodson fears the plant could emit ‘toxic methane fumes and noise pollution’ along her garden fence. An air quality assessment submitted by Conrad Energy concluded ‘no significant air quality effects’ would occur.

Amanda Worne (LDem, Yapton) said: “I understand that the generators will feed into the primary substation at Bilsham and the energy will then be taken to Tangmere.

“It will then go into the National Grid, so the village itself does not actually benefit from the energy.

“The environment officer has raised concerns that the application doesn’t comply with the climate emergency recently declared in Arun.”
Deputy council leader Jacky Pendleton (Con, Middleton-on-Sea) also objected to the plans.

She said: “This planning application is yet another attempt to destroy the rural nature of the location with further industrialisation. “Methane is many times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the atmosphere and contributing to global warming. “It is also linked to respiratory diseases.”

Jonathan Cooper, a project manager at Conrad Energy, said the company is the UK’s ‘largest flexible energy producer’ providing power to around one million homes.

“To make the transition to a system of 100 per cent renewable, you must have facilities in place close to end users that can meet energy demands when renewables cannot,” he said.

“On average we expect the plants to run for around three to four hours a day, but it could be less depending on demand.”

Committee chair Terence Chapman (Con, East Preston) pointed out that Conrad Energy’s monitoring of methane at two of their sites showed ‘levels well below any relevant benchmark limits’.

But this was not enough to allay the fears of councillors. David Edwards (Con, Felpham East) said: “It is very disappointing to see us having to deliberate a gas fired power solution, particularly given that this council declared a climate emergency.

“I think there are still far too many questions that need to be answered on this application.”

Isabel Thurston (Green, Barnham) said: “There is a national statement for energy which says we need fossil fuel backup up until 2050 as the grid is decarbonised.

“It is up to the government to do this in a systematic way, otherwise we may end up with multiple small applications like this across the area.

“We have absolutely no indication that our new housing sites will rely on flexible power.

“I think that this is a little bit of a greenwash at the moment –somebody is trying to take advantage of the situation.”

Ricky Bower (Con, East Preston) proposed to defer a decision until further information becomes available.

More details can be found at the council’s planning portal using the reference: CM/69/21/PL.

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