Meeting brings mixed fortunes for eco-friendly energy schemes

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CONTROVERSIAL plans to build a new green waste recycling plant on a former RAF aerodrome in Sheffield were turned down by councillors at a highly-charged committee meeting yesterday.

The proposals had attracted opposition from councillors, the area’s MP, Clive Betts, and residents who submitted two petitions containing almost 200 signatures.

More than 70 letters of objection were also sent to the council, citing concerns such as noise; the site’s proximity to houses, a primary school and a nursing home; and possible health implications.

Two firms - Sheffield-based Green Estate and Doncaster firm Silvapower - are behind the scheme, which plans to use existing hangars at the aerodrome for “green composting” and the processing of timber waste to make wood-chip biomass, which could be used to generate fuel.

Despite the fact that the aerodrome site lies within designated green belt land, among those backing the scheme were environmental groups such as the Friends of the Earth.

Maureen Edwards, from the Sheffield branch of the organisation, told yesterday’s planning committee meeting: “I would welcome this at the bottom of my garden. There is a need for this plant in Sheffield.”

However, every member of the planning committee - excepting one who abstained - voted against officer recommendations and refused planning permission.

Their decision came after many residents living close to the Norton site spoke passionately of their objections to the scheme.

Sue Hardy, speaking on behalf of the Woodland View care home, said she was concerned about both the possible health implications and the noise that could potentially be produced by a wood chipping machine at the plant.

She added: “Woodland View takes the most seriously affected people in Sheffield. These are cases of really severe dementia.

“This isn’t a case of ‘not in my back yard’, this is a case of not next to the vulnerable, and not next to a primary school.”

Celia Jackson, from the Moss Valley Wildlife Group, described the plans as a “desecration of Sheffield’s green belt.”

Voting against the proposals, Coun Andrew Sangar said: “This is an industrial process and it needs to be on the right site.

“There are two reasons I’m opposing this. One is the green belt, which is very important.

“The second reason is that I think this is detrimental to the amenity of the area for local people.”

Green Estate and Silvapower now have the right to appeal the council’s decision.

Meanwhile, board members granted planning permission at the same meeting yesterday for a new water wheel to be built on the River Don, close to Kelham Island Industrial Museum.

The “modern” water wheel will be built in an existing water pit and channel system in Alma Street that is thought to have been used for water power as far back as the Middle Ages.

The group behind the project, Sheffield Renewables, says the hydropower project has the capacity to generate up to 75 kilowatt hours of electricity every year - the amount used by around 20 family homes.

More than 25 people had written letters to Sheffield Council in support of the project, saying that the water wheel “will become a landmark for the area” and was “in keeping with tradition.”

However, 10 people also submitted letters opposing the project, saying the water wheel could create “unacceptable” noise levels and could also potentially become an attraction for youths.

Rob Pilling, managing director of Sheffield Renewables, said: “The Kelham Island Hydro scheme will bring an iconic renewable energy scheme to this popular site in the heart of the city.

“We are hopeful that we could see a water wheel return to Kelham Island by 2014.”

Councillors unanimously granted planning permission for the Kelham Island Hydro project.