Campaigners are accusing the authorities of "concealing" evidence in the case of the controversial Barry incinerator.

Last week, and after months of ongoing delays, the multinational insurance giant, Aviva, finally submitted evidence to Wales' new planning inspectorate in its appeal against a decision that would see its biomass plant in Barry torn down.

Last September, the Vale of Glamorgan Council had ruled the incinerator should be demolished after “a number of discrepancies” were found with its plans. An Environmental Statement (ES) has been required by Planning Environment Decisions Wales (PEDW) as part of Aviva's appeal process. 

TIMELINE OF EVENTS

  1. Barry biomass burner threatened with closure after Vale council finds ‘discrepancies’
  2. Insurance giant attempts to delay appeal process for controversial biomass plant
  3. Multinational given deadline to submit evidence in appeal for controversial incinerator
  4.  Multinational finally submits evidence in appeal for controversial incinerator

 

However, the ES has not yet been published and made available to the general public for scrutiny. The Docks Incinerator Action Group (DIAG) - the campaigners who have fought against the incinerator since plans were first mooted in 2008 - describe this decision as "outrageous" and are demanding access to the evidence post-haste. 

"An Environmental Statement, when served, is meant to be published by the Vale without amendment," insisted Dennis Clarke, Vice Chair of DIAG. 

"The Vale is obliged by regulation to publish the ES that has been served. The public needs to have early sight of the ES because it will be very lengthy and technically difficult.

"If we do not see it we cannot continue to make informed, valid points in the knowledge that the public has to look after itself as the Vale keeps getting it wrong.

"Perhaps the Vale thinks it can avoid the public seeing material in the ES because it is material the Vale would prefer we did not see."

The National Wales: Two of the younger members of DIAG. Photo: Siriol GriffithsTwo of the younger members of DIAG. Photo: Siriol Griffiths

There is an "urgent need" for the people of Barry to have access to Aviva's evidence, Barry and Vale Friends of the Earth told The National. A spokesperson said the general public have a right to be privy to decisions which impact upon their health and the environment which surrounds them: "FoE has been demanding a full Environmental Impact Assessment since the 2010 Inquiry (when Inspector Thickett turned us down). The company, the council and the Welsh Government have dodged it for twelve years. 

"We now fear the PEDW process will cut corners and agree with the company to omit key issues, including impacts of major accidents. 

"The plant was built contrary to EIA law, too close to housing and with the wrong chimney stack (too short and too wide). EIA law requires developers to consider alternative sites and designs, then justify their choice. 

"It's very unlikely that the ES does this and covers all key issues. The public needs the chance to urge PEDW's Inspector to reject the ES at this stage as incomplete."

The National Wales: The Barry biomass plant with the town of Barry behind it. Photo: Ade PitmanThe Barry biomass plant with the town of Barry behind it. Photo: Ade Pitman

The story of the Barry incinerator is long and complicated and began almost 15 years ago. After much to-ing and fro-ing and a public inquiry in 2010, planning for the incinerator was approved in 2015. Building work began the year after that, but by 2017, a dispute had arisen regarding a huge water tank which had been constructed without permission. There were numerous other issues identified with the site. 

The plant just off Woodham Road in Barry Docks was marketed as being able to generate electricity by 'gasifying' waste wood; in other words, by heating it to a very high temperature.

However, environmental campaigners have accused Aviva of "greenwashing" and maintain the burner will have a negative effect on the environment and the health of local people. 

The troubled plant has never been fully operational. 

The National Wales: Members of the Docks Incinerator Action Group gather on Dock View Road in Barry, overlooking the incinerator. Photo: Siriol GriffithsMembers of the Docks Incinerator Action Group gather on Dock View Road in Barry, overlooking the incinerator. Photo: Siriol Griffiths

The National asked the Vale of Glamorgan Council why Aviva's evidence had not yet been published. A spokesperson told us: “Following the appeal lodged by Biomass UK No.2 Limited (this is the Aviva subsidiary which was created in order to develop the Barry facility) against the Enforcement Notice issued by the Council on 17 September 2021, it was confirmed by Planning Environment Decisions Wales (PEDW) that the appeal must be accompanied by an Environmental Statement (ES) to be submitted by 13 April 2022.

"PEDW has since considered two requests made by the developer to extend the date of submission for the ES, with a final deadline of 29 July 2022 being provided.

"On 28 July 2022, an ES was submitted to both PEDW and the Council and the Council is required to publicise the ES and confirm where it can be viewed in person and on its website.

"Prior to the ES being published on its website, the Council is required to redact any personal or environmentally sensitive information covered under the General Data Protection Regulation and it is the Council’s intention for the ES to be published on its website as soon as this process has been completed.”

The Vale of Glamorgan Council's reasoning was put to DIAG. 

"Environmentally Sensitive? It is all environmentally sensitive," said Dennis Clarke in response.  

"That is why an Environmental Impact Assessment was needed in the first case.

"Wake up, Vale. Let’s have some leadership and acceptance at long last that we are only in this position because the Vale failed to notice they could not grant planning permission to this incinerator back in 2015 because of the absence of the EIA/ES.

"It will help the public to achieve a just conclusion if we had real assistance from those running the Vale Council."

The National Wales: Vale of Glamorgan Councillor, Dr Ian JohnsonVale of Glamorgan Councillor, Dr Ian Johnson

Plaid Cymru group leader on the Vale Council, Cllr Ian Johnson, said: “Plaid Cymru has been the only party that has consistently voted against the Barry Docks Incinerator. 

“Alongside DIAG and Barry Friends of the Earth, we have always called for open-ness and transparency on something which is of huge public interest. 

“These documents should be publicly available as soon as possible so that they can be analysed and challenged. Unnecessary delays and editing publicly published information helps the developer, not the public.” 

The National approached Planning Environment Decisions Wales for comment but they declined to give one.

Aviva has also been approached for comment. 

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