The multinational insurance giant, Aviva, is attempting to secure another extension before it has to submit an environmental statement regarding its controversial biomass gasification plant in Barry.

Aviva's solicitors, Ashurst, want an extra five months beyond the latest July 13 deadline to submit the multinational's long-awaited environmental statement (ES) on the facility. 

Last September, the Vale of Glamorgan Council ruled the plant should be torn down after “a number of discrepancies” were found with its plans.

Planning had originally been approved in 2015, while building work began in 2016. The year after that, a dispute arose regarding a giant water tank, which had been built without planning permission.

It also emerged that planning consent had been granted without an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) being carried out at the time. 

The biomass plant off Woodham Road in Barry Docks has never been fully operational but was touted as being able to generate electricity by ‘gasifying’ wood, ie. heating it to very high temperatures. Campaigners, however, insist it is merely a "waste wood incinerator". 

The environmental statement is now required by Wales' new planning inspectorate, Planning and Environment Decisions Wales (PEDW) as part of Aviva's appeal against the Vale Council's enforcement action.

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The letter from Ashurst solicitors - seen by The National - requesting the extension to the ES was sent to PEDW from the appellant, Biomass UK No.2 Limited; this is the Aviva subsidiary which was created in order to develop the Barry facility.

According to the letter, Aviva needs the further five-month extension as the Welsh Government “has still not published the consultation responses”. 

This refers to a 1,200 page consultation document which had been put out by Aviva over the Christmas and New Year period, and which was unanimously criticised by Barry Town Council in January. One councillor at the time described it as “not worth the paper it’s written on", while another said it "had no place in Welsh law".

Aviva, meanwhile, had labelled the consultation which ended on January 17 as a ‘Voluntary Retrospective Environmental Statement’ - it was in place of the full Environmental Impact Assessment which campaigners believe should take place.

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Up until this letter had been sent, Aviva had said that it expected to have the overall appeal against the Vale Council's enforcement order decided later on this year, with the intention of firing up the plant at the beginning of 2023. However, should this latest extension be granted by PEDW, the appeal would likely be pushed back.

Farcically, the July 13 date for submission of the ES paperwork was already an extension in itself, after Aviva requested a previous extension in April. 

This is the latest development in the long-running saga of the troubled site which has been rumbling on for almost 15 years.

The National Wales: Dennis Clarke with environmental campaigners, Paul Robertson from DIAG (Docks Incinerator Action Group) and Max Wallis from FoE Barry & Vale, and Plaid Cymru Councillor Nic Hodges, hand deliver responses to the Aviva consultation in JanuaryDennis Clarke with environmental campaigners, Paul Robertson from DIAG (Docks Incinerator Action Group) and Max Wallis from FoE Barry & Vale, and Plaid Cymru Councillor Nic Hodges, hand deliver responses to the Aviva consultation in January

Dennis Clarke is the Vice-Chair of the Docks Incinerator Action Group - the group which has been campaigning against the biomass facility since plans were first mooted in 2008. Mr Clarke argues the plant should be put out of use and the buildings repurposed for the benefit of the community.

"Aviva continues to kick the can down the road to avoid dealing with the Environmental Impact Assessment that they must have known was missing when they bought into this project," Mr Clarke told The National.

"They have done what they can to avoid returning to the residents of Barry the health safeguards effectively stolen from them.

"The Climate Change Minister made it clear to Aviva when answering a question in the Senedd on the February 7 this year what process they must follow. Aviva might not like it but they have to produce a lawful environmental statement.

The National Wales: The Docks Incinerator Action Group has been campaigning against the Barry biomass facility since 2008. Photo: DIAGThe Docks Incinerator Action Group has been campaigning against the Barry biomass facility since 2008. Photo: DIAG

"To help Aviva, the Minister pointed them to the regulations that should be complied with. The Minister correctly pointed out that the earlier consultation is irrelevant to the process Aviva needs to follow.

"Aviva is claiming they have a compelling reason to be given more time to comply with production of the Environmental Statement. Their so-called compelling reason is not in fact a reason for anything. 

"Aviva knows that if they follow the regulations they need to include the approximately 150,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide they are desperate to add per annum to the atmosphere. 

"They will need to include full details of the poisons that will affect the town. It is likely that Aviva is promoting similar investments elsewhere. So much for their oft trumpeted green credentials."

Aviva were approached for comment. 

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