November 9, 2017

Diag’s Response to Natural Resources Wales

As most of you know, NRW issued a Schedule 5 document to Biomass where many questions had been left unanswered. The result of this was the 1044 pages from Biomass, which contained some entire sections of their application to be completely re-written. After careful scrutiny of these pages, DIAG produced a response to NRW as there were still many problems. This response was a far more reasonable 130 pages and can be downloaded below. The Overview is displayed in plain text to give you some idea of the overall picture.
If you wish to read the full document, it references various appendices which are found at the bottom of this page.

Overview

There are many areas of concern felt by the local population in relation to the grant of a permit to allow the operation of an incinerator on Barry docks.
We have criticised the way in which this so-called public consultation has been dealt with. No ordinary residents should be expected to read through, never mind understand, the documentation that has been made available for the public consultation process. The Industrial Emissions Directive requires that the public are allowed to participate in the licensing process. It might be assumed that the relevant authority has a duty to ensure an effective participation by the public.

A non-technical summary is good practice in such situations (it is a requirement in EIA planning); it was wrong not to supply one here. NRW’s outline description as a gasification plant was itself misleading; we note the EA in England decided the Outotec process is incineration as the gases are immediately burned. It was also untruthful when NRW likened the gases produced to “natural gas”, when the hot carbon monoxidehydrogen mixture is highly explosive and toxic to health.

We believe that proper information on the hazardous nature of the technology, as waste incineration, would have brought forth other representations; the deliberate obfuscation nature of the documentation prevents fuller responses. Moreover, some responses may suffer from misunderstanding because of faulty assertions by the applicants which are apparently endorsed by NRW.
We showed concern in many areas. We have highlighted some areas where we believe that the documentation is deficient although it is noted that when we pointed out deficiencies to NRW these may perhaps have been ignored. We say this because we find from discussions with PHW that documentation sent to them by NRW for comment is taken as being authenticated by NRW, when it is clear the applicant’s documents cannot be relied upon as either fair or accurate. This was proved when the applicant replaced its submission documents on e.g. Fire Prevention and Noise by entirely new ones.

We remain concerned that no environmental statement or EIA-equivalent was requested in this case notwithstanding that an EIA should, by law, have been required prior to planning permission being considered. This appears to us to have impacted significantly on the public health implications of permitting a plant like this to operate in this area. It is for this purpose (and bearing mind the apparent involvement of NRW in the process) that we have included a note of the errors apparent on the face of the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s own documentation that is available for public view. It is significant, we say, that the Vale Council declined to discuss this.

We have tried to keep our response as simple/straightforward as possible but there are occasions when we find we have no alternative but to include in the document excerpts from other documentation such as Welsh Assembly Government policy documents.
These are included by way of reminders or bookmarks for NRW and others to help to ensure that full regard is had to policy and the law.

There is a belief that NRW has not been given the full resources that it needed in order to deal properly with this application. Our understanding is that the decision not to designate this application as one of high public interest – despite the senior officer’s (Tony Leakey) view that it is HPI – means that the applicant did not meet the extra costs
and NRW did not allocate resources as for an HPI application. It is unacceptable that shortage of NRW resources should frustrate due public engagement in such a significant application with relatively new and not fully understood processes where the possible impact on local residents could be very damaging to their health.
(Note: Representatives from DIAG have been told verbally in a meeting on 11th September 2017 that this application is “high public interest”. However we have not had any written confirmation of this and are unclear in what ways this application has been treated as HPI. This will be dealt with in the section below on issues of HPI.)
This is even more the case where NRW incurs costs on modelling local winds in order to remedy the applicant’s failure on air quality assessment, and on extensive Sch-5 Notices, instead of accepting that the applicant is not competent and therefore cannot be trusted with managing and operating this plant.
Power Consulting (Midlands) appears to be a one-man shell of a company, and must be a cover for a real Operations and Management company that has not been disclosed to the public. This point is supported by recent advertisements for jobs with an international operator.
The company’s representative gave NRW basic information in the pre-application meeting of February 2016 on the technology provider, which they changed without explanation. They have tried to fit in the Outotec technology into the same site, but there are significant ways in which it departs from the planning permission. The NRW could have checked this with the Vale Council when the application arrived in November, rather than rushing a ‘consultation’ over the Xmas period.

The public lack of transparency, the apparent lack of competency in the applicant, and their failure to be open in dealings with NRW (as previously with the Vale of Glamorgan planning department) could surely be reason enough for dismissing this permit application. If the document deficiencies are simply errors, then they are sufficient to show that the applicant does not appreciate the health risks and the safeguards that need to be in place. On that basis the application should be dismissed.
We anticipate some areas of our representations may be unclear, due to the limitations that we have in relation to expertise, time and funding. We would be willing to clarify things with your specialist evaluators, or otherwise as written questions that can be tabled for the October Liaison meeting. As it appears that the applicant operates on the basis of direct access to NRW senior officers to explain their paperwork we would hope DIAG could be accorded the same direct access as the applicant.

Download the full DIAG response here:
DIAG-NRW-Response