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Mystery over 400m Port Talbot power plant deepens

By paul lewis

May 24, 2011

Source: South Wales Evening Post

THE mystery surrounding the future of Port Talbot's controversial Prenergy power station has deepened.

Planning officials in Neath Port Talbot have now confirmed the company has not put forward a new application after it was given Environment Agency consent to use wood pellets as well as wood chips to fuel the 400 million plant.

During a Neath Port Talbot planning committee meeting, Sandfields councillor Ted Latham, one of the leading voices in the campaign against the station, asked whether the company would need approval to change the burning material.

He also wanted to know whether any such approval had been applied for to date.

Development control manager Nicola Pearce said approval would be needed, though she was not yet certain whether Prenergy would have to apply to the council or the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

"Either way we would have known about it," she told Mr Latham. "We would have either determined it or put forward observations.

"We have advised them they need to amend the condition if they choose to burn wood pellets and we haven't heard anything since.

"As far as I'm aware they have not submitted an application to change that condition."

She added: "We cannot force them to submit an application.

"We don't know what time scale they have to implement this consent, if they ever implement it."

Earlier this year the Environment Agency disappointed green campaigners by allowing changes to the plant's operating licence. This allowed increases in emissions of nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxide and hydrogen chloride.

Prenergy was also allowed to use wood pellets as well as chips to fuel the plant.

Last week Jeremy Bailey, of the PT-Raps protest group, which has fought the power station for years, said the campaigners were baffled by the total silence from the company since then.

The Evening Post has made several attempts to speak to Prenergy officials in London, but no response was forthcoming.

Speaking after the planning committee meeting, Mr Latham said: "It has gone really quiet.

"Nobody knows what is happening," he said.

"I'm no financial expert but I do wonder how viable it is in the present climate.

"This has been on the table for four years and not a brick has been laid."

paul.lewis@swwmedia.co.uk