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HIRWAUN CHIMNEYS: Approval for plans to double the height of a plant’s chimney stack

HIRWAUN CHIMNEYS: Approval for plans to double the height of a plant’s chimney stack

Image: LDRS

Plans to double the height of a waste energy plant’s chimney stack in Hirwaun look set for approval despite widespread opposition.

The plan is to increase the height of the chimney from 45 metres to 90 metres at the site on Hirwaun Industrial Estate.

In 2008, Enviroparks submitted applications to both Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council (RCT) and the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority (BBNPA) for planning permission for a waste resource recovery and energy production park.

Both authorities approved it and consent was given in 2010 when a section 106 agreement was completed.

Phase one was completed but a further consent was given in 2019 to an updated plan for phase two due to advances in waste recovery technologies since the original consent and changes in the policy and commercial landscape for waste recovery and renewable energy generation.

They are now proposing to double the height of a chimney stack (from 45 metres to 90 metres) and relocate it with no other elements of the previously approved schemes to be changed.

The report said that the applicant advised the authority that: “There is inherent environmental benefit in the proposal in respect of the dispersion of emissions to the atmosphere and the reduced potential for nutrient nitrogen deposition on protected habitats.

“However, this comes at the price of a taller structure and an important design consideration was how this would be accommodated in local and distant views, including views from local residential properties and from the Brecon Beacons National Park.

“The brief was thus to find a design solution for the taller stack that meets operational, air quality and habitat protection objectives whilst presenting an acceptable landscape and visual solution.”

But there has been opposition to the plans locally with 217 letters of objection or concern were received by the council as well as four petitions including 4,004 signatures as well as from the local MP Beth Winter and MS Vikki Howells.

Their main objections included that it would have a detrimental effect on the environment and it would impact on deprived communities.

They said it would be a pollution risk to the Penderyn Reservoir (water supply)  and the volume of traffic and pollution would increase greatly due to the HGVs
delivering to the site with roads already being congested.

They said the erection of the stack would be a “monstrosity” and an “eyesore” within the landscape and not compatible with the surrounding area.

They said the stack would result in a loss of visual amenity and that it would affect tourism and regeneration plans for the area.

The objectors also said the pollution would be a significant worry for both the elderly and children (with three schools in the vicinity) as well as people with respiratory problems as it would affect air quality.

They added that it would affect the viability of the existing Industrial estate and deter firms from coming and affect surrounding farms.

Opponents of the plan said the people of this area have suffered enough with heavy industry in the past which is now coming to an end and want to see more “clean” developments being undertaken, including tourism.

There was also concern about the value of homes in the area, wind-blown waste, the cumulative impact on the landscape with the wind turbines, smells, the impact on the Brecon Beacons National Park views, enjoyment of the surrounding areas being used for recreation, the impact on wildlife and the Special Landscape Area.

In recommending approval, planning officers point out that the only change proposed by this application relates to a minor relocation and increase (doubling) in height of the stack and some ducting associated with the revised location adding that all other aspects of the development remain unchanged and are not under consideration.

They said: “The application falls to be determined under two principal criteria namely emissions and visual amenity.

“In respect of emissions, this is something that is wholly governed by NRW and will be the subject of an application under the environmental permitting
regulations (EPR).

“NRW have advised that, for the purposes of the planning application, the emissions modelled by the applicant are acceptable (and is actually lower than modelling for the scheme granted planning permission in 2019 suggested).

“EPR will cover all aspects of both human health and that associated with flora and fauna that can be susceptible to changes in atmospheric conditions (in particular, the Marsh Fritillary Butterfly and Devil’s Bit Scabious within the Blaen Cynon SAC.)

“Without an approval under EPR, the development cannot become operational (and is therefore unlikely to be constructed/completed).

“In respect of visual amenity, neither NRW or BBNPA have objected to the impact and an independent landscape consultant (White Consultants) has concluded that the impact, while being significant, is also acceptable.

“The applicant’s proposal to ‘grade’ the colour of the stack and its location on the bottom of the valley floor means that the majority of views will be seen against the elevated landforms rather than the skyline, so any impacts are minimized.

“There are understandable concerns expressed by the letters received in objection, however these concerns relate largely to issues that have previously been considered (and approved) by both RCT and the BBNPA on two separate
occasions.”

Words: Anthony Lewis, Local Democracy Reporter


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