Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Southampton council refuses to be biomass station customer

The preferred design
Image caption Helius said its application will reflect views from a public consultation

The financial viability of a planned £300m biomass power station in Southampton is being questioned, following a city council vote.

Helius Energy is yet to make an application for the wood-fired plant, which is opposed by some residents.

All parties supported a motion preventing the council becoming a customer if the plant is ever built.

Helius had said it hoped the authority would consider any opportunity before dismissing it out of hand.

Conservative councillor Jeremy Moulton put forward a motion preventing the local authority from buying the heat output from the plant.

Speaking during a council debate, he said the move would be "very detrimental" to Helius's plans for a plant in the Western Docks near Freemantle.

"It'll send a strong message that we want them to go away and a strong signal to their investors."

Freemantle Labour councillor Dave Shields described the much-delayed planned plant as "a monstrosity"

"We have to take politics out of this and put residents first," he added.

The motion was passed unanimously.

The plant would work by burning large amounts of organic mater with the steam spinning turbines to create electricity to be fed into the National Grid.

'Power 200,000 homes'

But the No Southampton Biomass (NSB) campaign claims Helius would also have to find a large-scale customer for its heat output in order to be eligible for government subsidies.

Speaking before the council decision, Steven Galton, from NSB, said: "The council would be the most likely target for Helius to sell their heat to.

"By making it clear the council won't directly or indirectly purchase Helius' heat it is a great opportunity to put its position very clearly on the record."

Because the development is a nationally-significant project, planning permission will be decided by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

But Helius has twice delayed submitting its formal application, which it said will reflect views from a public consultation.

A spokesman for the company had previously declined to comment on the claims by NSB that it would need to find a buyer for its heat output.

But in a statement, Helius said: "Our proposed plant would generate sufficient electricity to power 200,000 homes.

"We would expect the council to seek to achieve best value for its constituents both now and in the future and to give due consideration to any opportunity to benefit from locally-sourced renewable energy."

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