All posts in energy

Port Clarence Biomass and Prism Planning are celebrating today after Stockton Council granted planning permission for a new 49 MW power station on land close to the northern side of the Transporter Bridge at Port Clarence which will burn waste wood. This is great news for Stockton and Teesside and Prism are pleased to have been able to help with this important project. At a time when the security of gas supplies from Russia is very much in the media spotlight after recent events it is great to see that Stockton is helping to deliver practical alternatives. The work required to get this permission in place has been done in a record time and it’s a tribute to the whole team who have worked so well with Stockton Council’s members and officers to iron out all the issues and get the permission in place. From day one of the project we have also worked alongside the financiers of the project and we believe this scheme will come forward rapidly on the site. The lack of objection to the scheme meant that the final decision was made by officers at Stockton but Councillors and the MP had followed the debate closely and supported the proposals. The applicants have built a number of similar power stations around the UK and have a track record of delivery. They have committed to seek to use local labour and suppliers in the project which is excellent news for the Tees Valley as the capital cost of the scheme is estimated to be around £160 million.
A decision this week by Ryedale District Council to approve an on-farm anaerobic digestion facility at Wray House Farm, brings the total number of anaerobic digestion schemes that Prism have successfully obtained planning permission for, to seven. This is a fascinating renewable energy project with tremendously green credentials. However our experience shows that they are still regarded as a very new and innovative form of development with most Planning Authorities and local communities and a great deal of reassurance is required to persuade people that they are safe and won’t impact on their lives. With this new decision, it shows that Prism have got the skills, knowledge and more importantly, the experience of progressing anaerobic digestion schemes through the planning system, of varying scales and complexities from simple on-farm systems through to major food processing facilities. We have now also built up a formidable range of contacts in the AD technology and financial sector so that anybody thinking of undertaking anaerobic digestion couldn’t hope to meet a more experienced and well-positioned team. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you are considering some form of AD project.
Public Consultation on a major new biomass plant got under way this week with members of the public having the chance to attend consultation events at The Forum in Billingham and Port Clarences Community Centre. The new power station will be fuelled by waste wood and will be located on land adjacent to Koppers, opposite the Riverside Stadium on the North Bank of the Tees. 

The planning application for the plant will be submitted to Stockton Council early in the New Year and the consultation exercise will run until 3rd January. Anyone wanting to view the exhibition on line can go to; http://www.resultscommunications.co.uk/consultations/01%20Teesside%20Renewable%20Energy%20Plant_031213.pdf.

Prism Planning are coordinating a multidisciplinary team of development professionals to ensure that the planning application is both comprehensive and easily understood.

Watch this space for more exiting news of this £160 million project.
Prism had a busy day at a North Yorkshire Planning Committee with two of our applications for new Anaerobic Digestion (AD) plants and an intensive livestock building on the agenda in the same afternoon. We had our work cut out with strong local objection to two of the proposals but fortunately members were persuaded by the strength of our arguments and granted planning permission. The success means that we have now successfully obtained permission for no less than 5 AD plants this year which must be something of a record. We aren’t stopping there however and have an application lodged for another scheme due to be considered in December and have two more on the drawing board. We hope that we will be able to continue our run of success with this most sustainable of renewable energy schemes. It’s clear that we still have a great deal of work to do in educating and persuading the public of the benefits of AD and we will continue to work hard on this. It will hopefully be made a little easier by one of our first schemes at Howla Hay, Guisborough nearing completion. It’s always helpful to be able to show a real life example of an operational plant and there haven’t been too many farm scale schemes built locally in North Yorkshire and County Durham.
A Planning Inspector has just overturned a decision by Durham County Council and granted planning permission for a new 500KW anaerobic digestion (AD) plant on a farm at East Hedleyhope, Bishop Auckland. The proposed plant and associated combined heat and power plant would provide electricity and heat out of digesting farmyard manure and other organic wastes. The case establishes Prism as one of the leading planning consultancies with expertise and in depth knowledge of the AD process. Prisms involvement was secured by Paul Palmer of CH4 Sense, a leading provider of AD services ch4sense.co.uk. The application was submitted to Durham County Council in June 2012 and although initially supported by officers, was refused by the planning committee in November 2012 with members disagreeing with officer’s assessment of the case. Members were concerned over the visual impact, odour, noise and the overall sustainability of the project. The decision of the Council was taken to appeal and an Informal Hearing took place in April 2013. In allowing the appeal, the Planning Inspector noted that the Council had not considered the National Anaerobic Digestion Strategy and considered that the Council’s policy base carried very little weight, being written well before the publication of the National Strategy in 2011. The Inspector considered that the tanks, although large in scale, would present itself as components of an existing farm and would have been properly screened by the landscape belt proposed in the application. In looking at the noise nuisance, he noted that the scheme did not breach World Health Organisation guidelines for night time noise and in looking at the odour decided this was something which would be properly regulated by the Environment Agency in due course. He considered that the Planning Authority were wrong in trying to adopt a precautionary stance in assuming that matters might go wrong. He went on to consider that this was a highly sustainable location for this type of development and was consistent with the National Anaerobic Digestion Strategy published by the government. He criticised the Council for seeking to locate such developments in existing industrial areas noting that certain types of AD facility would require large amounts of land to operate and they could not be expected to locate in general industrial areas to apply the presumption on favour of sustainable development established in the National Policy Framework for Planning and granted consent. Unusually, he went on to allow a full claim for costs against the Council noting that the members had departed from the professional advice of their officers without proper grounds. He was very critical of the Council applying a precautionary principle when advice clearly states that it is not their role in the planning system to do so. He concluded that the Council’s reasons for refusal were not justified or supported by any written or visual evidence and that the Council had put the appellant to the unnecessary cost of preparing evidence for and attending the appeal. Prism, and their client were delighted with the outcome of the appeal, noting that it was a complete vindication of the case they had argued and presented to the Council throughout the planning application process. In particular, Prism had supplied the Council with information covering all the points of concern and had sought to allay fears in these important areas. That this presentation of information was ignored by members is regrettable. However the AD process in the UK is still at a relatively young stage and it is perhaps understandable that fear of the unknown creeps into the decision making process. Hopefully this decision will show clearly that AD is here to stay and are properly considered proposals with well argued evidence should not be refused except on very specific and clear grounds. Prism look forward to working with the Council to get the scheme up and running in the very near future.
Its not very often that a client comes to us in receipt of a listed building enforcement notice requiring him to take down a flue to a log burning stove -but this is just what happened to one of our clients recently.  Thanks to Prism efforts, a Planning Inspector has just decided that he can keep the stove and the LPA have been found to be heavy handed in their actions.

Living in a converted barn, our client had installed a very efficient log burning stove. Following the best practice guidance of English Heritage (EH), he had installed a modern flue that ran  up inside the barn and which just ‘peeped’ out of the gable below the ridge. As recommended by EH he had gone to the additional trouble and cost of having the flue coloured matt black to minimise its visual impact. The LPA thought this was wrong and took the unusual step of issuing a listed building enforcement notice requiring the removal of the flue.

The success rate of appeals against these types of actions isn’t high, with the benefit of the doubt often going to the Council. Prism recommended an informal hearing to try to get across to the Inspector the full facts of the case and to more effectively challenge the arguments of the Council. Normally the Inspectorate take 6-8 weeks to make their findings known but in this case just a week after the hearing the Inspector found for our client and allowed the flue to remain. 

The Inspectorate fully supported the use of logs as a renewable fuel and accepted  that our clients proposals hadn’t had the damaging impact upon the building that the Council claimed. He also noted that the neighbours, who had complained about the flue, had an even bigger and more obtrusive flue on their own property!

Its very unusual for Listed Building Enforcement Notices to be served and still more unusual for the Councils actions to be overturned at appeal. Prism are delighted to have been able to win the case for the client.
Well perhaps not just yet but we have certainly taken a major step towards this position this week with a key decision being made by Hambleton Council to grant planning permission for what we think is the first farm based anaerobic digestion facility at Bonnie Hill Farm, Great Broughton.

For those who aren’t quite sure what this involves, farmyard manure along with grass silage and other organic matters is placed in a sealed vessel and allowed to ferment away under controlled conditions. This produces methane which can be used to fuel a generator producing electricity and hot water. After supplying the farms energy needs any spare electricity can be exported back to the Grid and earn the farmer an income. The heat from the generator can usually be used to good advantage –in this case helping to reduce costs in the on-site milk bottling plant. Other uses include warming stock buildings or heating glasshouses to produce cash crops. Once fermented the resultant product, known as ‘digestate’ can be spread upon the land. Its more useful for plant growth and a lot safer than ordinary slurry and has hardly any smell! AD isn’t a new concept and has been used on the continent for many years and the technology is proven. What is different about this project is that it is based upon the farm and uses manure and other crops produced on the farm. This means that there are no transport costs or off site implications for the local road network. From many peoples perspectives it is a lot more attractive than more wind turbines going up in the countryside.

We are delighted to have provided the planning support to such a great idea proposal. The new NPPF places a great deal of emphasis upon such sustainable forms of renewable energy generation.

Because the country isn’t yet very familiar with AD as a general concept, there is a steep learning curve with the detailed issues involved. Our clients, newly established , JFS based at Stokesley have however provided all of the answers and look set to make their mark upon the future of farming. Already there are two other similar projects at the pipeline that JFS have worked upon and farm based AD looks to have major potential for farmers who have livestock units. If it brings and end to the distinctive smells of slurry spreading, it will also get widespread support from the general public as well! If you’re interested in the potential of AD or want to know more about the issues, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.