Last Friday Norfolk County Council denied permission for a new biomass plant at Thetford. Although it would have been just a few hundred yards up the road from an existing biomass plant, the main arguments appear to have been based on the local archaeology, the visual amenity of Thetford Forest and the potential impact on an SSSI.
According to the BBC: “After four years of developing this particular project, we are naturally disappointed that the planning committee has seen fit to refuse this application,” said EPRL’s business development manager Gary Coombs.
However, a week before the decision was made, a report in the Eastern Daily Press ‘speculated’ that the plans would not be approved. It also reported that, ‘The Forestry Commission also raised concerns about any assumptions for significant fuel supply coming from the forestry sector. Some 56 letters and emails of objection were received, and three letters of support.’
This is worrying. Six years ago at the REA’s annual biomass conference in Oxford, Rod Leslie was championing biomass as a way to bring millions of acres of neglected woodland back into management, increasing biodiversity and improving carbon stocks along the way. Now, it appears to be against anything other than local wood fuel supply and small scale (whatever that actually means) local CHP schemes.
Enagri understands that this situation may be even more pronounced in Scotland, and that privately, key members of the FC have been particularly vocal in their opposition to Forth Energy’s biomass plans, and have contributed to the Scottish Government’s current plans to slash support for biomass power under the Renewable Obligation Scotland (ROS).
We’ll leave the potential conflict of interest with the Biomass Energy Centre for another day (although I have a lot of respect for the guys who actually run it day-to-day), but if the Forestry Commission isn’t in favour of profitable and productive forestry which delivers environmental goods, what exactly is it