Friday, 18 March 2016

Energy in the Basildon Local Plan

Everyone thinks about the obvious areas for objection to the local plan: green belt, traffic, flooding, pollution etc., but how about energy? 

We tend to simply assume that electricity and gas will be supplied as usual from outside so there is little for us to worry about. It is not that simple. Planners are now obliged to take into account the carbon footprint of the community and aim to reduce CO2 emissions. Unfortunately Basildon planners seem to have gone completely mad and are ready to turn the borough into a huge experiment of unconventional renewable energy sources. Instead of simply advocating well insulated houses, rooftop solar panels and low-power LED street lighting as they should, they are instead promoting decentralised energy, and combined heat and power supply for large new developments such as the East and West Basildon extensions. Decentralised combined heat and power means generating electricity and hot water locally using biomass and waste burning plants and distributing it around the area using private cables and pipes!

They also seem to like the idea of solar farms despite the problems and loss of green belt that these have already caused and are looking at wind farms on places where they would do enormous harm to wildlife such as on the Vange and Pitsea marshes.

Areas considered suitable for windfarms
Their evidence base is described in an 80 page document produced last year "Basildon Borough Renewable and Low Carbon Energy Constraints and Opportunities Assessment" If you are concerned about the impact do have a look a this document and comment accordingly to the local plan consultation. For a quicker overview of what some of it might mean see the submission to the Dunton Garden Suburb consultation from KTI-energy

For the record, here is my submitted comment on the subject:

In policies H10 to H27 there is mention of the opportunity to make provision for decentralised energy. Paragraphs 11.96 and 11.134 indicate that there is potential to secure provision of decentralised facilities in locations of policies H10 and H13. Policy CC7 also mentions the possibility of combined heat and power plants. 

There is no evidence given for CHP or decentralised energy in the "Sustainability Appraisal including Strategic Environmental Assessment." The "Basildon Borough Renewable and Low Carbon Energy Constraints and Opportunities Assessment" describes some of the options but does not give sufficient evidence that large scale schemes are viable.

Decantralised CHP may be practical for limited use close to a source of heat but using a local power plant to supply areas as large as H10 or H13 would require exceptional evidence based on working examples. Areas of Basildon should not be turned into experiments for renewable energy. There are many potential problems with decentralised energy whether it comes in the form of electricity or heat. The custom power networks would have to be built at the cost of either the developer or the power supplier and would be passed on to consumers, or would subtract from the developers CLI.  Choice of energy supplier and the ability to switch is an important principle promoted by the government through Ofgem. A decentralised energy system in a community brings a risk of monopolistic opportunity for the supplier. There are also possibilities of unreliability in the power source and even 
the risk that the decentralised energy supplier could run into financial difficulty forcing the council to take over in order to ensure  the continued power supply. Power plants fueled by biomass and/or 
waste are of particlular concern due to the possibility of polution and the continuous HGV traffic supplying the plant. There are likely to be particular technical risks associated with heat supply over large areas using hot water because of the need for efficient insulation, pumping to raised levels and the likelihood of leaks as the infrastructure aged. Hot water is very corrosive.

Decentralised and CHP energy should therefore be removed from the local plan. A low carbon footprint can be achieved better with higher standards of house insulation and the use of low energy lighting such as LED. These things should be promoted in the plan instead.

I am concerned about the support for solar farms in section 15.70.  Solar farms are almost always placed on green belt land and are an obstacle to wildlife such as birds of prey. We have witnessed at the solar farm at Outward Farm that solar farm developers are irresponsible and do not keep to the conditions for construction imposed on them. When the farm reaches the end of its life it is likely that the land will be regarded as "previously developed" and will then be promoted for housing no matter what the original intention was. A much better policy would be to promote the placement of solar panels on the roof of new housing depending on the plot size of each property.

Wind farms in section 15.64 could be located in important environmental areas such as the Vange and Pitsea marshes. This is unacceptable because of the visual effect on the landscape and also because of the ground impact. Wind turbines are known to kill birds so they should never be allowed near important bird habitats such as these.

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