15 FACTS about Generation Park Norwich
There is some alarmist and extremely misleading information circulating about Generation Park Norwich (GPN) and, although most of it is obviously so, we want to set the record straight.
Throughout the whole public consultation and planning process we have been committed to an open, honest and transparent approach and believe it is important that any discussion on the potential impacts on residents is conducted rationally with rigour, scientific analysis and taking account of the FACTS of the planning application.
We encourage everyone who is interested to view the planning application for themselves at the Norwich City website (application reference 15/00997/F) or the Broads Authority’s website (reference BA/2015/0225/FUL).
FACT 1. The Community Energy Centre is NOT a municipal waste incinerator
The Community Energy Centre is a straw-fired energy generation plant. It is not a waste incinerator. The fuel handling system (front end of the plant) could not handle waste, the boiler (middle part) would not function if waste combustion was attempted, the flue gas clean up system (back end of the plant) is not designed for treating emissions from waste combustion and thus could never receive an Environmental Permit to do so. As a matter of fact, the Energy Centre could not ever function as a waste incinerator.
FACT 2. Generation Park Norwich will cut Norwich’s carbon footprint
Generation Park Norwich will combust straw. Straw is an excellent low carbon fuel because it is a by-product of food production. The same amount of carbon dioxide emitted by combusting a stalk of straw is absorbed back from the atmosphere by growing a stalk the following year. Straw is many times better than natural gas (the best of the fossil fuels) in terms of carbon emissions per unit of energy produced, which in turn is much better than coal.
FACT 3. Generation Park Norwich will not affect the air quality in Norwich
The proposed Community Energy Centre will not have a significant impact on local air quality. The planning application is supported by a detailed air quality assessment that demonstrates the development will not cause a breach of any Air Quality Objective or Environmental Assessment Level. The contributions from the Community Energy Centre will be negligible and represent an exposure for pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and particulate material very much less than is experienced in typical homes from domestic activities such as cooking.
FACT 4. The Community Energy Centre emissions will be monitored
The Community Energy Centre will require an Environmental Permit from the Environment Agency without which it will not be allowed to operate. The Permit will stipulate the precise monitoring requirements for the facility which need to be reported to the Agency, who will also undertake regular site inspections. Failure to comply with the Permit requirements can lead to prosecution under criminal law. The Permit regime is applied throughout England with the primary objective of protecting public health.
FACT 5. Generation Park Norwich will be a commercial operation
Generation Park can bring immense benefit to Norwich as well as having the potential to be a commercially successful operation. The energy generation elements of GPN are eligible to apply for the same renewable energy incentives as any other renewable energy project elsewhere in the UK. The Government’s purpose of offering such incentives is to facilitate new renewable energy development, in particular schemes that deliver renewable heat such as at GPN.
FACT 6. District Heating is fundamental to Generation Park Norwich
The Generation Park Norwich (GPN) development is reliant on the delivery of the proposed District Heating Network. E.ON Community Energy, one of GPN’s key partners and investors, has the sole function to deliver community energy networks around the UK. In line with their other similar community energy projects, E.ON will offer more affordable heating and hot water for businesses and houses on the District Heating Network. The Government expects a dramatic increase in district heating schemes over the next few years as they are more efficient, cut costs and reduce carbon emissions.
FACT 7. Generation Park Norwich will both create and support jobs
Construction of GPN will create over 500 jobs during peak building activity. When fully operational over 100 direct permanent jobs will be created excluding the secondary employment that will be stimulated. As it continues to operate it is expected to attract more interest in Norwich as a ‘go-to’ location for sustainable energy and low carbon companies as well as attracting companies looking for low carbon energy. GPN will also support the growth and development of UEA, Norwich University of the Arts and City College Norwich (all major drivers of the local economy) because of the student accommodation, facilities (including the Research Centre and Education Centre) and other provision.
FACT 8. Generation Park Norwich can regenerate the entire Utilities site
Phase 1 of GPN includes the Community Energy Centre, student accommodation, a new road and bridge over the River Wensum (available for public use), footpaths, cycleways and an area of new landscaped riverside public space with boat moorings. In common with most other large mixed use schemes, the remainder of GPN would then happen on a phased basis. However, the infrastructure costs borne by Phase 1 make the remainder of the development commercially viable and support its early delivery.
FACT 9. Generation Park Norwich will supply low carbon electricity to Norwich businesses and the local electricity grid.
GPN will generate sufficient electricity to supply the domestic needs of 88,000 homes. Some of this electricity will be distributed directly to major power users in Norwich at competitive prices, enhancing security of supply and improving local capacity, and thus helping to secure jobs. The remainder of the electricity will be fed into the local grid, from where Norwich’s 60,000 homes get their power.
FACT 10. Generation Park Norwich is sustainable in terms of transport
GPN, in developing the new Wensum Bridge, will fill the important strategic gap in cycle and pedestrian links between the city centre, and areas to the north and east, including Thorpe St Andrew and Trowse. In terms of vehicles, GPN is designed to be a very low generator of traffic. Key measures to achieve this include all straw fuel deliveries by rail, ‘car free’ student accommodation and restricted car parking provision elsewhere. The traffic modelling in the planning application demonstrates that the contribution of traffic associated with GPN, once operational, to the County Hall roundabout traffic at peak times will only be between 1 and 1.5 vehicles per minute.
FACT 11. Generation Park Norwich will not result in any significant increases in noise levels
The planning application is supported by a detailed noise impact assessment. Potential noise effects will be evaluated by the Councils and Environment Agency as part of the planning application and Environmental Permit determination processes. These will impose enforceable conditions that will ensure there are no unacceptable noise effects on local amenity.
FACT 12. House prices will be unaffected
There is no evidence that biomass power stations, such as proposed at GPN, have any negative impact on local house prices whatsoever. This includes straw fired plants, of which two similar sized schemes are in full operation and two further plants currently under construction. Indeed, where UK studies have been undertaken in relation to other large infrastructure schemes (such as wind farms and waste treatment facilities), no evidence of house price effects has been found. GPN will regenerate a derelict and unkempt site and during the public consultation local residents told the Generation Park Norwich team that the park and riverside development would enhance the local area.
FACT 13. Generation Park Norwich accords with local planning objectives
The Utilities site is allocated in both Norwich City’s and the Broads Authority’s recently adopted (2014) Local Plans for a mixed use development, including renewable energy generation and the potential for district heating, which is consistent with the GPN scheme. Accordingly, the GPN team is promoting a project that accords with the joint authorities’ aspirations and objectives for the site. Both of the Local Plans were subject to extensive public consultation before being finalised.
FACT 14. Straw is a sustainable low carbon fuel in ample supply
Straw is a by-product of annual food production and is in secure and plentiful supply with over 12 million tonnes produced each year in the UK. GPN’s sister company Pelco is well advanced in both securing long-term straw supplies from across England and delivering the necessary pelleting plants. Planning permission for the first pelleting plant at Ely was granted at the beginning of August. The National Farmers’ Union supports the use of straw as an energy crop and taking into account other agricultural uses has assessed that around 4 million tonnes of straw per year could be utilised for energy production. This figure far exceeds the amount of straw that would be used in existing and planned straw fired energy plants.
FACT 15. The University of East Anglia supports, and will continue to be involved in Generation Park Norwich
The idea originated at UEA and the University has actively shaped the proposal as a partner in the development company applying for planning permission. UEA has made it clear on many occasions that profit is not its main motive. It sees GPN as a major attribute for the City, as a potentially telling contribution in leadership in rising to the challenge of climate change and a major opportunity to help develop a more sustainable balance between human activity and the environment.