Cash-strapped council withdraws from controversial hydrogen project
The future of a major hydrogen project is in doubt after senior politicians decided to withdraw financial support for the project due to budget pressures.
Bridgend County Borough Council has confirmed that the authority intends to ‘reluctantly withdraw’ its backing for the Hybont green fuel project in the face of a predicted multi-million-pound deficit for 2024-25 and significant new budget pressures.
Japanese developers Marubeni planned to build a hydrogen plant on the Brynmenyn industrial estate, near the village of Bryncethin.
The planning application for the project sparked a significant backlash from local residents, who said the proposals were inappropriate due to safety fears about the proximity of the plant to residential areas, and a lack of clarity in the plans.
A statement issued by the council stressed that its decision was ‘‘purely financial” and that the authority, while recognising the importance of developing new, cheaper, cleaner sources of fuel and energy, is being increasingly “forced to choose between supporting such projects and protecting essential services”.
Speaking at a meeting of the cabinet yesterday (19 September), Council Leader Huw David said: “By signing a memorandum of understanding with Marubeni Europower and confirming our support for developing a hydrogen starter project, we recognised the urgent need to develop cleaner sources of fuel and energy in the face of rising costs and climate change.
“While that need continues to remain a priority, we now find ourselves in a position where we may soon be forced to choose between providing financial support for such projects, or ensuring that we have sufficient resources in place to be able to continue to provide and prioritise essential frontline services.
“We have to ask ourselves, can we really afford to commit to spending around £6.5m on this project when, like other councils, we are also predicting a multi-million pound deficit and hugely significant new budget pressures for 2024-25?
“Faced with such difficult choices, we must always prioritise essential services for local people, and it is for this reason that we have decided to reluctantly withdraw our financial support for the Hybont project while also continuing to recognise the importance of sourcing alternative fuel and energy sources.”
A spokesperson from Marubeni Europower Ltd said: “Marubeni Europower would like to thank Bridgend County Borough Council’s Cabinet for its continued support in our exciting plans for HyBont – a green hydrogen production and refuelling facility at Brynmenyn Industrial Estate.
“The commitment from the Cabinet to hold additional discussions with the Welsh Government and other partners to explore how they can further support HyBont is extremely welcome and, despite the council no longer being in a financial position to invest, is a clear endorsement for the project.
“We are already in discussions with other partners on future funding and are absolutely committed to making the HyBont project a reality, bringing economic benefits to the local community, creating jobs and promoting sustainable growth in the region.”
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