Plans will soon be submitted by NPH (Norwich) Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) for the controversial £370m ‘Generation Park’ development, based on the 30 acre former utilities site in the Thorpe Hamlet area of the city. The proposals include 120 low carbon homes, as well as student accommodation, an education centre, a new energy research and development centre, 11 acres of parkland, new cycle routes and the promise of job creation. All this and at no cost to the council taxpayer! Well, at least not in direct monetary terms.
The site will also be host to a straw-pellet burning energy plant that could produce electricity equivalent to powering 88,000 homes, as well providing heat on demand to surrounding businesses and homes via a district heating network, with claims of up to a 25% reduction in the city’s carbon footprint as a result.
On the surface plans appear to satisfy the council’s Local Plan requirements for a mixed use of the site, including power generation from renewable sources and district wide heating. However a large cloud of uncertainty looms over the sustainability of the fuel source for the biomass plant, compounded by the choice of EON, the second most polluting energy supplier in the UK, as the project’s energy partner.
According to Friends of the Earth it is only the use of such surpluses that can provide significant carbon savings
In a letter to the EDP, UEA Professor Trevor Davies said that the project will only use wheat and oil seed rape straw as fuel sources, both vastly grown crops with an alleged straw surplus in the eastern region. According to Friends of the Earth it is only the use of such surpluses that can provide significant carbon savings, although they also acknowledge that taking these away from the traditional agricultural cycle — incorporating straw into the land to return phosphate to the soil and maintain organic matter levels — can lead to further degradation of already suffering soils. This would then likely be accompanied by an increased use of oil intensive nitrogen based fertilisers. Despite this the National Farmers Union are advocating use of over 80% of excess straw stocks for this purpose.
Pelco (Distribution) LLP, the proposed supplier of straw pellets, has recently submitted a planning application to East Cambridgeshire District Council for the first of five UK pelleting plants and is currently looking for farmers to supply it. The plant would be capable of handling up to 150,000 tonnes of baled wheat and oil seed rape straw, delivered by road from farms within a 50 mile radius. This would then be pelleted and shipped to Generation Park by rail. Pelleting increases the density of the inputs meaning the plant could feasibly supply the 250,000 tonnes of straw pellets each year that Generation Park would require.
uncovers further financial connections to executive board members
Pelco is controlled by Norwich Powerhouse LLP (controlling partner of NPH (Norwich) LLP) and directed by Ian Christopher Woodward, CEO of Generation Park. Tracing through the network of companies assigned as directors of Norwich Powerhouse LLP uncovers further financial connections to executive board members of the proposed development.
Norwich Powerhouse LLP is directed by the following companies:
- SBC No1 Ltd — 100% owned by Simon Barnard (Executive Member Generation Park & COO of Pelco)
- Brooklands IDC No1 Ltd — 63.2% owned by Ian Woodward (CEO Generation Park & Director of Pelco )
- Faw Properties Ltd — 100% owned by Building Partnerships Ltd (Development Management of Generation Park) — 90% owned by Paul Knowles (Executive Member Generation Park)
- UEA NPH Ltd — 100% owned by the University of East Anglia
It represents a significant conflict of interest for executive members of Generation Park to endorse the project for its supposed environmental benefits when they also stand to profit from approval of the application. This completely undermines the process of selecting the renewable and low carbon technologies that lead to the best environmental outcomes, rather than those which yield the largest profit.
This represents a distinct bias in favour of profit driven biomass projects, as opposed to community led initiatives
So far council commissioned research into options for development of the site have only focussed on the feasibility of biomass as a renewable technology, despite outlaying almost £500,000 for this purpose. This represents a distinct bias in favour of profit driven biomass projects, as opposed to community led initiatives — which are being driven to extinction by barbaric cuts to green energy subsidies alongside privatisation of the green investment bank.
Rather than heralding the idea of no council-taxpayer’s money being invested into the project, we should be denunciating it. Energy is a public good and only full public ownership can ensure the public receive all the benefits of its production. Remove the profit motive from the decision making process and the result will be an energy policy in the greatest public interest.