THURROCK Council’s planning committee has given plans to upgrade Tilbury Power Station the green light.
Permission means it is now unlikely the plant will be forced to close permanently in October when it comes to the end of its “operational life”.
It had been feared the plant would close for good once it used up its allocation of operating hours, imposed after it opted out of an EU directive in 2008, despite converting to biomass in 2010 and supplying more than half the UK’s renewable energy.
Instead of closing, the use of biomass at the plant will be progressed. Modifications will be made to the plant from October.
Environment concern group Biofuelwatch argued the planning committee should concern itself with where wood pellets are coming from and how this “trashes the planet’s ecosystem”.
Duncan Law told the committee burning biomass was more harmful than coal.
He said: “Thurrock Council should allow this old monster to die, burning global forests at just 37 per cent efficiency.”
Debate at last Thursday’s meeting surrounded carbon emissions and air quality, to which the committee concluded that the plant’s operations would meet strict government regulations and it was therefore not their role to challenge those regulations.
An environmental health officer confirmed that whether the station operated on coal, on biomass, or shut altogether, there would be no effect on local air quality.
Nigel Staves, the power station manager, pictured, told the committee approval would support 300 local jobs and ensure the world’s biggest biomass operation remained in Thurrock.
He said afterwards: “I am pleased. This will allow the power station to be modified to meet operational and environmental standards required for a new biomass power plant.
“This is part of the consent and permitting process that is required in order to modify, reopen and continue to operate the power station after it closes later this year.”
The next step for the station is to hear if it will be granted a permit by the Environment Agency. That should be decided within six months.