Concern over postponement of biomass burner inquiry
Ted Peskett, local democracy reporter
Campaigners fear the Vale of Glamorgan Council could be set to backtrack on its plans to enforce the closure of a biomass burner in Barry.
An enforcement notice was served on the wood-burning power plant on Woodham Road in 2021 for a number of discrepancies with its approved plans.
However, the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s planning committee is now set to meet next week to discuss a proposal to vary the enforcement notice it issued back then.
Only recently, an inquiry into an appeal made by the biomass plant’s owners, Aviva, against the enforcement notice was postponed.
The Planning Enforcement Decisions Wales (PEDW) inquiry was set to take place in May.
With a fresh planning application having been submitted by Biomass UK No.2 Limited, there are concerns that the plant could eventually come back into operation.
Vice Chair of the Docks Incinerator Action Group (DIAG), Dennis Clarke, said: “If the Vale of Glamorgan Council deals with and grants planning permission this will mean the public will be deprived of the more thorough investigation we would have been entitled to with a Public Enquiry.”
Aviva said Biomass UK No.2’s has always argued that the enforcement notice served on the Woodham Road plant is inaccurate and disproportionate.
A Vale of Glamorgan Council planning report states that the proposed variation of the enforcement notice is intended to “more accurately reflect the breach of planning control”.
It will also include an additional/alternative option to secure a remedy to the breach of planning control, according to the planning report.
Speaking on behalf of Barry and Vale Friends of the Earth, Max Wallis said: “PEDW should now rule the company has had plenty of time to submit material within the required period and proceed with the Inquiry in order to settle the matter – and lift the long-standing blight over Barry town.”
Vale of Glamorgan Council member for Baruc, Cllr Mark Hooper (Plaid Cymru), said: “It seems that the incinerator owners want the Vale Council to backtrack on the original Enforcement Notice, and are trying to claim the costs if the Vale stands their ground.
“This means accepting the 2015 application was correct, even though it didn’t have an Environmental Impact Assessment, which was required by law.”
Cllr Hooper went on to say that Plaid Cymru councillors have opposed the Barry Docks incinerator “from the outset”, adding: “We hope that the PEDW Inspector and the Minister for Climate Change agree with us that the incinerator has no place on Barry Docks, in the middle of Wales’s largest town.”
Aviva said in a statement: “The postponement of the May inquiry dates was initiated by the independent Planning Inspector following his consideration of the parties’ representations to the enforcement appeal proceedings.
“Biomass continue to comply with PEDW’s directions for conduct of the appeal and the Vale of Glamorgan are doing the same.
“We understand the Vale of Glamorgan are due to discuss the enforcement notice at a planning committee meeting on 27th April.”
A number of issues
A statement from the Welsh Government reveals that the PEDW inquiry was postponed to give the council time to seek legal advice after a “number of issues” were raised in relation to matters covered in its evidence for the appeal.
A spokesperson said: “I can confirm the inspector appointed to report on the appeals raised a number of issues with the Local Planning Authority (LPA) in relation to matters covered in its evidence for the appeal and potential implications for the allegation of unauthorised development that is set out in the enforcement notice.
“The inspector now requires a response from the LPA and comments from the appellant on these matters before he can determine next steps for the appeal process. Given the issues involved, the Inspector has allowed time for the LPA to seek legal advice before providing its response.
“PEDW has therefore had to postpone the Inquiry that was scheduled to open while these issues are resolved. A new date for the Inquiry will be set once the Inspector has established the appropriate next steps.”
Vale of Glamorgan Council was contacted in relation to the postponement of the inquiry and said that it did not wish to comment.
The authority was contacted again for a comment in relation to the concerns raised by campaigners and Cllr Hooper.
The planning report on the proposed variation for the enforcement notice adds: “The purpose of agreeing a variation of the EN is to enable the appeal to focus on the matters which are in dispute and thereby reduce the time and resources which might otherwise be spent on producing evidence that is not relevant to the determination of the appeal.”
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