‘Greenwash’ accusations at Keynsham food waste meeting

The developer behind plans for a mega-sized waste power plant near Keynsham staged an exhibition last Tuesday, just days before the deadline for comments.

The campaign group against the scheme – Protect Our Keynsham Environment (POKE) – said that the 11th-hour invitation via a London-based public relations firm asked locals to visit an exhibition in Compton Dando, which was not an obvious choice of venue.

POKE said: “It is three miles away from the majority of residents who live upwind of the huge power plant and who will be most impacted by the traffic, noise and smell.

“An exhibition in Keynsham would have been the logical choice for those wanting to seek the true range and strength of feeling of the 16,000 local people in the town – rather than a venue in a small out-of-the-way village.”

POKE added: “The PR firm, based in the capital, can be forgiven for not knowing where the local power plant site is located – its website says Charlton Road when it is, in fact, off the narrow Charlton Field Lane. Harder to forgive is not properly explaining how it came to reach its very categorical green claims which are hotly contested and controversial.”

Resourceful Energy Anaerobic Limited (REAL) are hoping to counter the hundreds of objections raised by local people to their development plans earlier this year. This autumn they submitted revised information in support of their planning application to Bath & North East Somerset Council for the digester power plant at the old Queen Charlton quarry site. The deadline for comments was Monday of this week.

A previous unfinished anaerobic digester (AD) plant at the Green Belt site, which had approved capacity for 25,000 tonnes of organic material per year, closed in 2017. REAL want to increase capacity to 92,000 tonnes to produce gas and electricity for local grid networks and also propose to restore ecology in the old quarry.

POKE said that nothing in the PR firm’s ‘greenwash spin’ appeared to change the basic facts of an industrial-scale development in the Green Belt and that their objections remain unchanged. They say the claimed benefits are not outweighed by the environmental damage and harm that would be caused.

“There remain horrendous HGV traffic implications across a very wide area – for as well as maize and waste delivery vehicle movements, there will likely be frequent tanker transportation of water and biogas. This will be made worse by chemical, maintenance and skip vehicle movements to and- rom the site.

“It is not actually green, rather greenwash, as using maize (which is a crop, not waste) for fuel is not a sustainable method. The source of most of the various materials to feed the proposed AD power plant remains unclear.”

POKE also said the PR firm’s leaflet that was posted to thousands of homes and including a pre-paid reply envelope did not allow space for locals to make their own comments of objection.

This week POKE’s spokesperson Kerry Morgan told The Week In: “This exhibition raised more questions than it answered. POKE’s concerns remain as before. This inappropriate development still remains in the heart of our precious Green Belt.”

On their website REAL outline their plans and claim they are several reasons why the plant is necessary, including national and local commitments to fight climate change.

They say the roads along the route are quite capable of handling the extra HGV traffic that would be generated, and that measures would be put in place to contain and treat any odours to reduce their release and impact: “Generally the type of odours coming from the plant will not be unlike the smells of agriculture which area normal to the area.”

REAL ask people to support the proposed development “because it will recycle food waste into green renewable energy, contribute to the fight against the climate emergency declared by Bath and North East Somerset Council and the UK Government, support the rural economy, and deliver biodiversity benefits around the site”.

B&NES Council is due to make a decision on the scheme later this year.