GENERATION PARK: POWER AND PROFIT

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by Rowan Van Tromp

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.

(Straw pellets © peoplewithenergy)

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.

(Gebneration Park Norwich: straw pellet fuelled biomass community energy centre with elevated visitor gallery encircling upper boiler house © edp)

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.

3 thoughts on “GENERATION PARK: POWER AND PROFIT

  1. Apparently the UEA have a similar biomass incinerator that has never worked properly, i would like to know more about that –
    My objection is about the rather secretive rush to planning approval by a consortium of investors including those “who prefer to remain anonymous” who are feather-bedded by major grants and subsidies (at tax-payers expense) and who who ignore local residents’ calls for more time and transparency.

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  2. How can this ever benefit local residents? We won’t benefit from the heat distribution network as it will only be rolled out to the new houses which may (or more likely not) be built as part of the development as it would be too costly to supply existing homes. And big businesses are the only ones to gain from the electricity produced.

    The only benefits to local residents will be a huge chimney (currently around 90m and still growing with each new design produced), emissions of pollutants exceeding those produced in any other highly populated residential area, noise 24/7 with constant alarms.

    Oh and don’t forget the fact that even though they tell us they are bound by all sorts of regulations re emissions and pollutants, it doesn’t stop them breaching the regulations on a daily basis and then paying the meagre fine to the Environment Agency but in the meantime the local residents are subjected to higher than is deemed safe levels of pollutants wafting our way on a regular basis.

    I’m yet to see the benefits to the local community!

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  3. Enjoyed reading the article with some good research. One point to mention is that the submission to NCC from Generation Park is for a biomass incinerator only. The other sweeteners such as the cycle path, footbridge, housing, and parkland are only promised at a later date.

    Once the planning permission is gained for the incinerator, it remains to be seen whether the housing etc ever emerge and NCC will have no powers to enforce Generation Park to submit planning for the rest of their proposal.

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