Could a £160m power plant plan for St James turn up elsewhere in Northampton?

Plans to set Northampton's power plant proposal back for a review period has prompted speculation the developers could be considering other sites in the county - or scaling down the St James scheme.

Wednesday, 24th August 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 7:12 pm
Artist's impressions of the proposed power plant in St James were revealed earlier this year, complete with an education centre. But a recent call for a review into the scheme has thrown its location into doubt.

Yesterday Rolton Kilbride and the borough council issued a joint statement saying the £160 million scheme would have to go back for a three to four-month review and consultation before a planning application is submitted.

But council leader Councillor Mary Markham said the review would involve looking at “site opportunities.”

The statement has prompted speculation Rolton Kilbride could abandon plans for the Westbridge Depot in St James - the subject of a vocal protest in recent weeks - and look to build elsewhere.

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The Chron asked the company whether it was looking at other sites, but managing director Andrew Needham declined give a direct answer.

He said: “The need for renewable energy generation and distribution is paramount, particularly so for industry that is striving to be competitive in unpredictable market conditions.

“We therefore remain committed to pursue plans for the renewable energy centre for Northampton, which could provide a valuable source of renewable energy for local business.”

Green party member Tony Clarke, who helped form the No Monster Incinerator in Northampton group, says protests against the scheme will continue wherever it ends up.

Previous alternative suggestions have included at Brackmills, in Brackley and at junction 15 of the M1.

Mr Clarke said: “We will oppose any incineration or gasification plant, it’s harmful land dangerous and it doesn’t work.

“It has been a victory for people power so far, but we won’t rest until that plan is defeated.”

Mr Clarke believes developers may also put forward a smaller scheme for the Westbridge Depot.

However the location and size of the plant could be closely linked to the argument over unitary authorities in Northamptonshire.

Were Northamptonshire to become one big unitary, the plant would need to accommodate waste from a population of 691,000.

But if Northampton became a unitary authority on its own, it would need to dispose of non-recyclable waste cheaply rather than paying vast sums for landfill tax. It may well want to keep the power plant within its borders - but the facility would not need to be as big as a county ‘monster’ plant.

The county council believes it could save £10 million a year if such a “waste to energy” plant was built.

In terms of location, Rolton Kilbride wanted to build it in St James because it would be able to pipe-off heat to a surrounding residential network.

This would not be achievable if the plant was placed in a countryside location or at an industrial estate.

Councillor Gareth Eales (Lab, Dallington and Spencer) has been outspoken about his opposition to the St James plant and has even called for a referendum on the scheme.

He said campaigners now need to start proposing alternative solutions to deal with waste in more environmentally friendly way for the town.

“What I’m advocating is, it is fine to be opposed to this incinerator, but we need to move the debate on now. We need to propose an alternative - what could a waste disposal/recycling plant look like that could tick all the boxes?”