WOOLAVINGTON residents have voiced their opposition to a controversial new biomass development set to heat 160 homes in the village.

The proposal, by SHAL Housing and Cenergist, is for a woodchip-fuelled biomass development at the sports field in Upper Woolavington. 

But residents have a number of concerns about the proposal and at a meeting of the Upper Woolavington Residents Association on Wednesday, March 24, chairman Ron Eden said there were not enough details.

“We have been told that this thing will be wonderful but as far as I can see, you cannot switch it off once it is on,” Mr Eden said.

“They cannot tell us how much it will cost, we do not know how frequent deliveries are going to be, the size of the wagons. There are nowhere near enough details.”

One Woolavington resident voiced her concerns about the proposed 50ft chimney that would be put in place if the plan goes ahead.

“They say the chimney will be tall enough so that the fumes go out into the atmosphere. It will affect our plants, our greens, our homes and our families,” she said.

Another resident, Nigel Frith, was concerned the new development would impact on plans for a new sports and recreation facility on the sports field.

“Is there anyone here tonight who actually thinks this biomass thing is a good idea?,” he said.

Mr Frith said a small team of residents had been putting together an ambitious plan for the sports field including draining the pitch to make it usable again, adding a new walkway, and a new build pavilion with sports facilities and possibly a social club area.

He said: “The plan for the sports facilities is currently being put into place – it will then go out to consultation – if the majority of people decide they don’t want it, it will not happen, simple as.”

A vote was taken and all the residents in attendance felt they were not in favour of the biomass development.

“We need to get our objections in before it reaches the planning stage,” Mr Eden said.

Homes in Sedgemoor community and development officer, Lucy Chappell, said her organisation was not yet able to say whether it was for or against the plan.

“Our position is that we need more information before we can come down on either side, we need to be certain it is the right thing for our customers,” she said.

Angela Gascoigne, CEO of SHAL Housing, said after the meeting: “I would have loved an invitation to this meeting so that I could give people the facts about the proposals being put forward by SHAL and Sedgemoor District Council to develop a heating and hot water system using a low CO2 producing technology that does away with the need for people to use generally more expensive fuels such as LPG, electric and oil and which takes advantage of the major energy companies’ obligations to fund cheaper energy for customers. 

“The council and SHAL consulted people who live in Woolavington and are ‘off gas’ last summer and there was enough interest shown by residents to take the next step which is to go through the planning process with a fully worked-up scheme. 

“The scheme is currently in preparation and is taking account of the feedback we got last year and at our pre-planning consultation event last Tuesday.”
For information visit www.shal.org/category/biomass-district-heating.