ANALYSIS of the likely impact of an eco-friendly power plant set to bring 340 jobs to Northumberland will be kick-started by council planners next week.
Green energy company RES wants to build the 100 megawatt, biomass-fuelled power station at Battleship Wharf on the River Blyth, and expects to submit a formal planning application by the end of March.
A final decision on the project will be taken by the Government, guided by a recommendation from the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), which now handles major developments.
As part of the decision-making process, Northumberland County Council will have to submit a report assessing the likely impact of the biomass plant on the local area.
That will look at issues such as its effects on the landscape, roads and neighbours’ quality of life.
Next week county councillors are expected to agree to arrange a visit to the Battleship Wharf site to assess the situation for themselves and begin the assessment process. RES carried out consultations with local people three months ago, and said it was delighted with a claimed 75% positive response to its proposals.
The generating plant, which would provide enough renewable electricity for 170,000 homes a year, will create between 200 and 300 construction jobs and between 40 and 50 permanent posts.
The complex will comprise of a group of fuel storage buildings up to 25m tall and a 60/70m-tall boiler house with a chimney up to 100m tall.
Yesterday RES project manager, Neil Bond, said a planning application would be submitted to the IPC in the first few months of 2011, along with an environmental impact assessment.
“We are trying to pull all of the information together and talking to people like highways officials and NEDL, about grid connections. The IPC process is still very uncertain but we would hope to be taking delivery of fuel for the plant by 2015.
“We believe that is a realistic target because it will take 30 months to build the plant. Things are always changing out there but hopefully there is nothing going to derail us.”
The plant, to be built on the Port of Blyth’s bulk cargo handling facility between North Blyth and Cambois, will burn between 500,000 and 900,000 tonnes of imported biomass fuel per year.
About 80% of the wood chips, pellets and briquettes will be delivered to the site by ship, and new cranes, hoppers and conveyor systems will be required to handle it.
A report to next week’s county council planning and environment committee by planning officer Frances Wilkinson says the Blyth biomass scheme is a major development which is likely to raise a number of issues requiring careful assessment.
Recommending a committee site visit, she says the key issues will include the impact of the plant on neighbouring homes, the local landscape and roads, the cumulative effect with other local developments and the benefits of the scheme.