Friday marked the end of the consultation process over the controversial Leith biomass plant. I can’t help but feel that Forth Energy will be a little relieved that the deadline has finally come. Because what has happened over the past month has been a thorough and unequivocal thumping of the company’s justification for building a huge industrial facility at Leith Docks.
In letters, public meetings, formal objection and informal tweets, Leith residents, environmental campaigners, and concerned individuals across Scotland have said a clear and firm “no” to the plant. Ministers making the final decision would be mad to ignore that.
The arguments against are simple, and have been put forward articulately by hundreds of individuals.
For starters, it’s in very much the wrong place. The heavily populated area of Leith is ill-suited to the building of a huge—and it is huge—industrial facility. Indeed, the Edinburgh City Local Plan does not identify the site as one ripe for power generation, and with good reason. It would dominate the skyline, add an extra 32 lorry movements per day to an area which already has more than its share of congestion, and pollute the air in an area surrounded by houses, schools and nurseries.
Furthermore, the environmental credentials of the facility are thoroughly shaky. Forth Energy maintain that their calculations show the plant making huge carbon savings over its lifetime. But these are optimistic calculations, based on a non-existent infrastructure for piping heat into homes, and a failure to take into account the carbon cycle of the type of material being burned. More realistic figures suggest the plant will make no contribution to Scotland’s Greenhouse Gas targets by 2030 and may make a only very small contribution to targets for 2050.
The Scottish Green Party believes strongly that Scotland’s future lies in the creation of a strong, sustainable green economy. It involves investment in energy production which creates jobs, meets Scotland’s energy needs, and protects our urban and rural environments. It doesn’t involve supporting developments which decrease the quality of life for local residents, and fail to live up to their environmental claims, however many times “renewable” appears in the brochure.