Yesterday was a very interesting day - I ended up having two conversations with different parts of the Peel empire - discussing both the Windfarm and the Ince Resource Recovery Park.
So what did I learn:
Peel and continuing to press ahead with implementing their planning permission for the windfarm. If they are to benefit from the government subsidies then the windfarm has to be operational, I understand, by April 2017.
Peel have already started to tick off the various planning conditions for the scheme.
One of the things we are all likely to see happen later this year (around September) is the creation of a 'scrape' for the wading birds. This will be a 0.5m deep scrape to encourage wetland type conditions fronted by grass. This will be near what Peel call 'cell 3' -this is the active deposit ground for the dredgings from the Ship Canal just off Lordship Lane. Peel are looking to involve those with interests in caring for and managing wildlife to get involved. In addition to national organisations such as the RSPCA I am encouraging Peel to engage with local groups too.
Lynn and I are encouraging Peel, and they have agreed to engage local businesses to carry out this sort of work where possible.
We are told that the main civil engineering works are likely to start in April 2015. This will involve 11km of access tracks and then the construction of the crane pads and turbine foundations. Apparently the ground conditions vary across the marshes. Bed rock can be found some 20-22m down at the Frodsham end of the scheme, whereas in front of Helsby bed rock may be 35m down. Piling will be necessary - but the exact details aren't known yet. Peel have promised to give us more detail as their scheme is developed.
Peel are in debate with the relevant authorities about how they will make their electrical connections to the electricity grid. The two options are - a connection to the national distribution grid, or perhaps two connections, one at Ince/Helsby and the other at Frodsham to the local distribution grid. The latter option would be cheaper for Peel, but would involve the construction of a substation near the Frodsham turbines. (near turbine 19.) If this happens Lynn and I have suggested that Peel look to integrate community facilities in the Frodsham substation - such as toilets, community space, perhaps a bird hide etc.
We had previously asked Peel to see if they could move the turbine closest to Frodsham - near the Marsh Lane park homes. In Peel's schedule this is called T20 - turbine 20. Peel have said they will consider moving the turbine - and will go through all the hassle of a further planning application to facilitate this - if they can find a place for the turbine to go. They do have an alternative site in mind - but they don't own the land. Whether the turbine can be moved may be down to their negotiations with that land owner.
Back to the question of the 11km of access tracks - Lynn and I are encouraging Peel to have a dialogue with Sustrans to see if we can join together to make these tracks more usable by cyclists.
And finally Peel look set to submit a planning application to CWaC to vary the wording of the original planning permission granted by the Department of Energy and Climate Change ('DECC'). DECC's wording of the permission isn't the brightest with use of confusing expressions such as 'development' and 'main development' - a lawyer's charter if ever there was one.
Ince Resource Recovery Park - update:
With Covanta not winning the Merseyside waste disposal contract the main incinerator scheme has been put on hold. Peel will therefore be submitting a planning application to CWaC to vary the phasing of their original scheme. They intend to build out their environmental mitigation and then the biomass incinerator (probably powered by waste wood).
The biomass development will not require the rail-head or the ship canal berth to be build at this early stage - although they may still be built.
There will be no changes to the numbers of vehicles accessing the site from those granted planning permission quite some time ago.
Assuming planning permission is granted Peel aim to 'break ground' later this year with the plots (probably only 3 of them) being developed out in 2015. More details willl be found in due course on the Ince Resource Recovery website if you are interested.
I raised with Peel the sense in using local contractors where they can. They agreed to do this.
Coal Bed methane and Shale Gas
An unexpected part of the meeting with Peel was an update from a CWaC planner on the status of shale gas exploration in the Borough. As we know it was announced last year that shale gas had been found at Ince during their exploration for coal bed methane. Apparently there will be further exploration for both coal bed methane and shale gas in future in a wide area both within and without the CWaC Borough. This will involve seismic studies and some drilling. No fracking is intended and, in any event, no planning permission or environmental permit is being sought for that purpose either. Those with the licences to explore and exploit any gas in the area are looking to build up a 3D picture of what lies beneath.