Biomass Plant rejected as Thurrock councillors overrule officer’s advice

Biomass Plant Rejected as Thurrock Councillors Overrule Officer’s Advice

Controversial plans for a new Biomass Plant planned in West Thurrock were unanimously rejected by Thurrock Council Planning Committee this evening (29 October) against the recommendation of their officers.

The Plant, planned for land on the eastern side of Fiddler’s Reach, Wouldham Road, Grays, had been proposed by Balfour Beatty and Nexterra to provide electricity for Proctor and Gamble, and was strongly defended by agent Andrew Russell, who in a rare move given the importance of the proposal, was given the opportunity to respond to councillors questions of safety, waste and the running of the Plant.

Councillors were warned by Chair of the meeting Cllr Terrence Hipsey that any overrule of officers advice would require a clear material reason for doing so backed with evidence, otherwise risk the application costing the council even more on appeal, and so suggested the committee defer a decision.

The suggestion was met by a collective groan from a public gallery keen to see the application rejected, following arguments against the project from local ward Councillor Oliver Gerrish and  resident Helen Adams.

Ms Adams put forward strong arguments based on health, noise, traffic and the safety of the plant.

She said: “There are few beneficiaries of this plant. Why should the residents of Thurrock suffer? We are not against alternative forms of energy but this should be done appropriately, and not done just over 200ft from the nearest houses and surrounding residential areas.”

Having heard the objections, councillors, led by Cllr Gerard Rice, decided there was enough evidence to form a material reason for rejecting the recommendation of officers, and the councillors were given a 10 minute break to discuss what the reason would be.

While councillors had already expressed serious concerns with the effect on health of residents in the area and the noise generated, Cllr Rice accepted the advice of the senior development team to focus on the aesthetic effect, and said: “The sole reason that I would put forward is visual impact. A 100m stack and the building itself within a residential area is significant and adverse and that would be the principle reason.”

This was met with acceptance of being a clear material reason, a decision greeted with warm applause by the public gallery.

After the meeting, Cllr Gerrish said: “This is a huge victory for West Thurrock and South Stifford residents. We’ve been fighting this application hard with meetings, petitions and lots of campaigning, so it’s thrilling to see that hard work pay off.

“As I said at the committee meeting, this application would have been a monster, absolutely out of character with how the area is now developing. The air pollution, HGVs and round-the-clock noise were all unacceptable with residents living just meters away. The area is already one of the most polluted in Thurrock, so anything that made that worse would have been horrendous.

“I was very proud to represent my ward to campaign and speak against this application. Obviously this may not be the end of the story, as they might try to appeal the decision. However, we’ll keep fighting this at every stage!

“I’d like to thank everyone who played a part in this victory, but in particular the residents – it’s been a huge effort, with so many people getting involved and sticking up for their area.”

Grays Riverside Councillor Jane Pothecary, who attended the meeting with residents, said: “This is a fantastic day for Grays and a real win for the community. I am delighted that the area won’t be blighted by more HGVs and pollution.

“It has been great to work with residents in this fight and I would like to thank everyone for their hard work. This was the right decision for Grays and I am so glad that the council listened to our residents and put them first.”

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George Hughes

George Hughes
Senior Editor

George Hughes is the senior editor of The Enquirer. George has been with the company for ten years and has seen it grow to be one of the UK’s most trusted news outlets.