Bi…Bi…Biomass in Stag Lane, Newport

By Administrator-1, September 24, 2013

REAL VENTURES, a company started by three island businessmen planned to build a 49.9MW Biomass Power Station fuelled by imported wood pellets on the banks of the River Medina. It should be noted that Biomass Power Stations under 50MW are considered small enough to be unregulated, hence their selection of 49.9MW.  Real Ventures had somehow secured  ‘Preferred Bidder Status’ for the last two years of the previous Conservative-led IOW Council to use the Council owned disused refuse tip as its location.

Fortunately, local campaigners entitled  ‘Biomess’ actively raised awareness  against this proposed development, and worked hard to inform Medina Valley residents what would befall them if this application were to succeed.

When Real Ventures asked for a further year’s extension WRAP (Wight Residents Against Pollution) decided to lend ‘Biomess’ their support and they turned their attention to making sure that the ‘Preferred Bidder Status’ for such a polluting development, was not to be extended for yet another year.

Several WRAP members then posed specific questions to the IW Council on a number of associated topics including the Stag Lane Biomass Power Station, the Asphalt Plant, the Waitrose Biomass Energy Centre and other items relating to Public Health* and to the lack of measurement of the ambient Air Quality by the IOW Council which  the new Independents-led Cabinet were to consider  at their meeting on the 9th July 2013.

However, before that meeting took place, Real Ventures prudently decided to withdraw their application and their status lapsed on the 31st July 2013.

.* The NHS INHALE website gives information about the high incidence of childhood asthma in this region.

WRAP posed 5 written questions to the Cabinet which they duly answered within the following few days. They follow, along with the Council replies.

Question 1/5

Dear Councillor Ian Stephens

The previous Isle of Wight Council has been repeatedly neglectful in their Duty of Care to residents to monitor the quality of the air we breathe. West and East Cowes have levels of childhood asthma which are 36% higher than the National Average.

Quotation from The Times, Thursday, 20 June 2013 page 29 Article by Matt Ridley - 

‘It’s a bio-mess. Burning wood is a disaster. The Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution says, “Airborne particulates kill more people than road traffic accidents.” ’

 •        Why doesn’t  the IOW Council  carry out actual measurements to provide a benchmark against which the air quality impact of all future developments, such as this Biomass Plant, can be assessed?

 ………   and then there is Eurovia and the potential air pollution from the Asphalt Plant at Medina Wharf !!


The Isle of Wight Council has a number of responsibilities relating to air quality management; these fall under Part IV of the Environment Act 1995. The role of the Local Authority is to undertake a review and assessment process in order to identify all areas where the national air quality objectives are being or are likely to be exceeded. Local air quality objectives are set out in the Air Quality (England) Regulations 2000. It should be noted therefore that the target levels are set nationally.

The assessment process which reports through DEFRA is a 3 yearly cycle which started in 2000 and involves three stages:

In the event levels target levels are exceeded, an Air Quality Management Area must be declared followed by an Action Plan detailing how the Local Authority proposes to introduce measures to reduce the concentration of pollutants in line with Government objectives. The vast majority of Air Quality Management Areas in the country relate to traffic and there are no such designated areas on the Island at present.

There is a requirement for the Local Authority to submit reports to the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), who determine the acceptability of the reports. The Isle of Wight Council has submitted reports to DEFRA in accordance with the guidance and these have been accepted.

With regard to ambient air quality DEFRA are satisfied with the Council’s compliance. In parallel with the pollution control regime and in accordance with paragraph 120 of the National Planning Policy Statement (NPPF) relevant development has to take into account the effects (including cumulative) of pollution on health, the natural environment or general amenity of the area. For certain classes of development there is a requirement for the submission of an Environmental Statement under the Town & Country Planning Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations 2011.

Question 2/5

Dear Councillor Ian Stephens

Permission was granted last year to the Island Farmers Consortium to build a grain drier, partly fuelled by biomass waste and wood pallets.

A study in 2008 by Michael Ryan of UK Health Research into infant mortality near to such developments, impacting on air quality, can be found on this link -

“Who is monitoring the impact of this grain drier plant on the ambient air quality in this part of the River Medina Valley?”


“The position in respect of this development is that it would be fuelled by gas and wheat chaff (a by-product of cereal production). Depending upon the input rate to the plant it may require agreement under Section 14/15 of the Clean Air Act 1992. If the input rate is below 45.5kg per hour, the plant would be exempt from such a requirement. It is believed that the model proposed has a capacity of up to 40kg per hour which would be exempt.

In the event input exceeded 45.5kg per hour, an application would have to be made under the Clean Air Act. The planning permission for this facility has not yet been implemented. Given the scale of the development and the rate of production there is no statutory requirement for the Council to monitor emissions from the plant.”

Question 3/5

Government recommendations to Planners suggest that  Biomass Power Stations should be located where there is an existing coal-fired Power Station to reduce the sulphur emissions and comply with agreed EU levels. The Stag Lane Biomass Plant   will not be replacing a more polluting coal fired power station. It will, however, be reducing our ambient air quality, whatever value that may be, and putting 75 additional noxious substances into our local atmosphere.

•        Why is the Real Ventures Biomass Project even being considered and given preferred bidder status at this stage?

………   and then there is Eurovia and the potential air pollution from the Asphalt Plant at Medina Wharf !!


“Real Ventures were given preferred bidder status for the Council owned land at Stag Lane following a restricted marketing exercise undertaken in 2010. Since then Real Ventures has twice requested extension of its preferred bidder status and the Council’s Cabinet were tonight being asked to consider a third extension of the preferred bidder status. This morning Real Ventures formally notified the Council that it was withdrawing its request for an extension.

 The current option expires at the end of July 2013 and the Council will now need to consider what alternative uses there may be for the site.”

Question 4/5

Dear Councillor Ian Stephens

The Waitrose Energy Centre in East Cowes, built by Wates on behalf of Mitie has been a biomass disaster. It was officially opened on Friday 30th March 2012,  and fuelled by locally coppiced wood. There were soon complaints from local residents and businesses about smoke entering their premises and some reports of health problems, with sore throats, tight chests and an increased use of inhalers. However the technology could not cope with the fuel and ceased operations in September with a final attempt on October 22nd 2012. This development flouted all of the recommendations given to Local Authorities when considering CHP Biomass applications.

•        Why were Mitie allowed to build this plant without a stack, located at the bottom of a hill and with the large Columbine building in very close proximity, causing down draught and inhibiting the dispersal of emissions?

………   and then there is Eurovia and the potential air pollution from the Asphalt Plant at Medina Wharf !!


“The implications of the energy plant were fully considered as part of the planning process. It is incorrect to state that there is no stack, although as it is relatively low and clad so as not to be obvious from beyond the site. In order to operate the plant the company had to demonstrate compliance with Section 14 of the Clean Air Act 1993.

A detailed Dispersion Modelling Assessment was submitted by RPS Consultants Ltd which was assessed by the Council’s Environmental Health team and deemed to demonstrate compliance. The Assessment included all of the pollutants listed in the National Air Quality Objectives.“

Question 5/5

• “Who, in the Isle of Wight Council, is ‘doing the Maths’? Who is keeping a tally of all the potential and actual developments which will continue to negatively impact on the quality of our air in the Medina Valley which is deemed to be a ‘leisure asset’?”

• “Are you able to confirm that this massive construction will not further pollute the River Medina Valley where the ambient air quality is already currently being contested by those local residents opposed to the proposed asphalt plant just downstream of this Biomass Plant where additional monitoring has been

demanded by the IW Council Environmental Health Department?”


 “The Environmental Health Department is a statutory consultee on applications which may impact upon air quality. Once decisions have been issued the EH Department considers them as part of the assessment process to comply with the Council’s Local Air Quality management responsibilities under Part IV of the Environment Act 1995.

There is currently no application for a Biomass plant adjacent to Stag Lane. On the basis that such a plant would be fuelled by imported biomass and have a production capacity of 49.9MW the proposal would need to be screened under the Town & Country Planning Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations 2011. It is highly likely such screening would find that an Environmental Impact Assessment would be necessary.

It would also require an Environmental Permit under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010. We have previously provided a screening opinion which confirmed the Council’s position that an Environmental Statement should be submitted.

Where an Environmental Statement is required, cumulative impact has to be assessed. 

The requirements of all relevant primary legislation is to ensure that potentially polluting developments do not lead to exceeding nationally set air quality standards.”




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