Fears over ‘blast zone’ report for Northampton power plant are unfounded, claims developer

The proposed power plant in St James would have a towering presence above the Northampton skyline.
The proposed power plant in St James would have a towering presence above the Northampton skyline.

Developers looking to build a power plant in Northampton have sought to allay safety fears after it emerged the firm would need to submit a “blast report” as part of its planning application.

Rolton Kilbride is on the verge of submitting plans for the £120 million gasification plant at The Westbridge Depot in St James, which would work by converting non-recyclable waste into energy.

But a Freedom of Information request seen by the Chronicle & Echo shows an email chain between planning consultants MFD International and Northamptonshire County council discussing a “blast zone...study/anaysis”.

In the email, dated March 12, 2015, MFD International said it was working for Rolton Kilbride in producing such a study for a planning application because of the Westbridge Depot’s proximity to two “existing fuel tanks”.

The discovery raised eyebrows with the campaign group, No to Monster Incinerator in St James, which believes the location of the plant could be dangerous.

Director of Rolton Kilbride, Peter Rolton, said the developers would be submitting a blast report - but he said this was to ensure no building takes place next to the “oil storage tanks” next to the Westbridge Depot.

He said: “The term blast zone contains very emotive words, but it is not about us having a blast radius around the plant itself, it is about making sure we don’t build near those tanks.

“There is only a concern if you invent one.”

However, as yesterday’s call for a referendum on the power plant by the St James Residents’ Association shows, there are concerns about how safe the site would be.

A far smaller gasification plant built in Dumfries by energy firm Scotgen, was shut down in 2013 following a two-day blaze a the site.

The £20 million facility its licence revoked by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency for breaching emissions limits more than 200 times.

But Mr Rolton says the firm is proposing to use newer technology currently being used in 45 similar plants in the Far East in the Northampton plant.

He also said that the fire in Dumfries was caused by poor maintenance of a steam pipe, which he assured would not be the case in St James.

Rolton Kilbride will be submitting a fire risk assessment as part of the planning application.

“The idea that our plant could be a risk to those storage tanks is nonsense,” he added.