Plans for a biomass plant on the site of the old Llynfi Power Station have been resurrected – but rather than using clean woodchip the company behind the renewed project wants to use waste.
The biomass plant near Llangwynyd, Maesteg, received planning permission from Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC) in 2011.
However it was never built due to government biomass subsidies ending and the project no longer being financially viable, according to the director of the firm which now wants to acquire the site from Morgan Credit Energy Wales to build “a modern energy from waste facility”.
Davendar Meseck, director of DMG Ecological Energy, said future plans for the site involve vertical farms – where crops are grown commercially in multiple layers or levels – and a visitor centre.
Residents in Shwt who live a few hundred years from the site say it has yet to be cleaned up following a large fire in 2016 when a huge pile of woodchip burned for almost two weeks.
Recalling the “awful toxic fumes” which caused them to choke while the fire burned, they now fear what the change in fuel will mean for the area, referring to the new project as a waste incinerator.
Elaine Groves said she only found out about the new plans after a local councillor visited.
She said: “There has been no public notice on the change in plans, only a site notice.
“What environmental impact will this have, and what effect on people’s health?”
Another local resident Michael Horrigan raised concerns over the increased traffic on the A4063 Bridgend to Maesteg road.
He said: “BCBC has just given permission for 450 houses to be built in Tondu – this traffic plus the lorries delivering to the site are going to come on this road.
“It’s unbelievable, we have had so many bad accidents on the road already.”
Planners at BCBC have said the proposal does not require an environmental impact assessment, saying it is not likely to have significant effects on the environment.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Mr Meseck said: “The planning permission is already in place – we are not asking for any changes other than a change of fuel.
“It’s not an incinerator, it’s using a thermal combustion process.
“The process is monitored 24 hours a day by Natural Resources Wales for emissions – we are planning to get as close to zero emissions as possible.”
He said using wood in the process was now regarded as being harmful to the environment due to the need for importing it.
He said: “The request to change to refuse derived fuel (RDF) is to enable us to keep out material which would otherwise go into landfill, and use that to provide the heat to generate the steam for a turbine to produce 25MW of electricity for export into the grid network.”
RDF is a fuel produced from various types of waste such as municipal solid waste (black bag rubbish), industrial waste or commercial waste.
The planning application states it would be delivered in wrapped bails which would reduce the fire risk.
Due to the original planning permission being in place, the application currently lodged with BCBC only involves a change of one of the planning conditions relating to the change of fuel.
However Mr Meseck said there are more plans for the site.
He said: “We are working with our partners, the Clever Green Portal Company, to capture the carbon dioxide that would have been released out of the combustion process and put that into vertical farms on the Llynfi site.
“Vertical farming is a concept in Asia and parts of the UK which is exactly the same as growing tomatoes in a green house but where you’re growing them in large domes instead.
“They’re not modified, it’s the actual crop but we do it under controlled conditions.
“We are going to start speaking to Cardiff University and Swansea University to see if they want to put a campus there so they can watch how things work.
“We want to get people involved and have a visitor centre on site.”
With regards to the concerns voiced by local residents over increased traffic, he said: “The planning permission was for 52 vehicle movements a day, the only thing we are being asked to do is to put a roundabout in to enable speed reduction on that road.
“People need to understand the planning permission has been granted, we are just asking for a change of fuel type.”
He added that an 85m chimney stack that was granted in the original planning permission would now be 30m due to the change in fuel.
Ward councillor Martyn Jones said he had been trying to organise a public meeting on the plans but had experienced “difficulty”.
He said: “If the developer and planning officers are mindful to create a waste disposal unit in close proximity to communities then the least they can do is meet with the community and explain their plans, especially when this site has a history of multiple planning applications and a fire that took nearly two weeks to extinguish.”
Mr Meseck said he had recently met with a local Assembly Member and MP, adding: “I’m quite happy to have a conversation with any resident or have a meeting with people but it cannot be classed as a public consultation as it’s not a requirement for the condition we are asking to be relaxed.
“Ultimately my business has invested time and money in this for 12 months.
“If there is resistance we will just walk away from this, we have other projects.
“We believe the Llynfi site is a great opportunity – it needs to have something done with it, it’s an eyesore currently.”
The application requesting a change in fuel type is P/19/275/RLX while the original application granted permission is P/11/21/FUL.