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Local concerns over pyrolysis proposals

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'The more we find out about this proposal, the more worrying this

‘The more we find out about this proposal, the more worrying this plan is’: Nia Griffith

CONCERNS have been expressed over the financial history of a company behind the plans for a pyrolysis plant at Cwmgwili in Carmarthenshire.

Two of the men linked to the company behind the pyrolysis application are Manish Chande and Martin Myers. The Herald can reveal that both have a long and ‘interesting’ record of businesses in property development and services. The pair ran Imry, a property developer that got into such a financial mess that it caused Barclays to write-off the largest bad-debt in its history.

As it stands the council do not consider the financial history of an applicant for planning permission. However, Nia Griffith MP has raised concerns about the application process following revelations in The Herald about another company; Loca Ventures Ltd who were apparently behind plans to develop Parc Howard.

The Llanelli MP told the Herald: “Councillors on planning committees have to judge applications strictly on planning grounds, but really they ought to be allowed to take into consideration the track-record of the applicants. Who are the people behind the company? What experience have they got of running a pyrolysis plant? How many other companies have they been directors of? What happened to those companies? What if they (the council) find that a company behind Clean Power Properties has been chased for owing hundreds of millions? Wouldn’t that make councillors think twice about granting them permission to bring in stacks of rubbish to use in processes of which they have no experience, with the risk that they would go bankrupt and leave the council taxpayer footing the bill for clear-up?”

Nia Griffith is not alone in her concerns as local residents have also expressed fear that councillors could be being taken for a ride by a company which will do the hard sell on its proposals, take the subsidies offered and then be unable to make the plant pay its way. That would leave open the possibility of the site being left in a contaminated state worse than it now is.

The Resident

David Evans lives at Plas y Fforest, which is a housing estate close to the proposed development.

He told the Herald: “I discovered that Carmarthenshire has a great track record at recycling so I questioned why we needed this plant.

“There was a deceptive nature to what the proposal was about. It started as a solar farm but it is not a solar farm. There are going to be some anaerobic digestive systems and then it was said it would be a pyrolysis plant. I could see that opposition groups were saying it was an incinerator and the definition of pyrolysis is ‘incinerator’. The photos I saw of the proposed plant didn’t show the chimneystacks

“I learned that a pyrolysis plant needs to operate 24 hours a day seven days a week three hundred and sixty five days a year to be efficient. We currently process 30,000 tons a year in Carmarthenshire and to keep this place going would require more than 300,000 tons to operate.”

Mr Evans asked: “Where will the rubbish come from? What is the impact on the environment? These are straightforward questions we would like answered. The company refuses to meet the opposition group on the grounds that ‘they will never be satisfied’. It is worrying to have to wait to see what they are going to do rather than be consulted at every stage of the process.”

The Expert

Campaigners have been bolstered by the expertise of Tumble resident John Simmonds. Mr. Simmons is a Plasma Physicist and a Lecturer at the European Energy Centre on Renewable Energy Systems. He is also a Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow. He is currently on the Committee of the Plasma Physics Group of the Institute of Physics as well as on the Committee of the Welsh Branch of the Institute of Physics. His area of expertise is power generation and control.

He told The Herald, “It appears that they may be using environmental agency documents, with the reference numbers removed, which doesn’t show that this is part of the process here or otherwise. He went on to say, “Every document that has come through from CPP or its agents has left more questions due to the contradictions. CPP say that the calorific energy of 1KG of MSW is roughly half of 1kg of coal.

Asked about the potential hazards relating to the proposed plant he said, “Aside from the normal gas mixtures coming out of the plant there is a very high risk of explosion. When you have oxygen as ionised gas, which it is in a pyrolysis machine, the high levels of oxygen above atmosphere can cause an explosion in the presence of any kind of spark. If they miss a piece of metal or if the gears are coming around and they scrape against metal then an explosion can happen. There have been a number of explosions in plants like this around the world.”

“My standpoint is as a local resident. It is close enough where I will have to breathe in these toxic fumes. When Dawnpac burned they could smell it in Llandeilo over 17 miles away. To say one would be exposed to toxic fumes up to a 17-mile radius from this plant is not unreasonable. The siting of this plant at the gateway to Carmarthenshire will deter future investment in the Cross Hands sites in which the County Council has invested so much.”

After asking Mr. Simmonds for his verdict on whether the plant should be approved he gave a very succinct answer. He said, “There is no reason to approve a plant like this based on the premise that this is supposed to be an economically viable process that is going to make them money they have yet to show that this is going to be economically viable let alone the safety implications. If this goes belly up after a number of years and the council have scrapped their recycling programme it is going to cost the taxpayer. There is not enough rubbish to be had for a plant like this.

They are saying they need 195,000 tons to burn. If we remove the moisture that would go down by half so they would need close to 400,000 tons. Even the whole of South West Wales only sent 125,000 tonnes of MSW + C+I waste to landfill, and this figure is decreasing year on year. At the same time the 4 anaerobic digesters need a flow of organic matter. That rubbish has to be filtered too. There are hazards at every step. If it comes from elsewhere we are depending on others to say that they have done their job right.

Given the expertise I have and the apparent lack of expertise within the company I have no confidence that they can make this happen.” The Land Owner Anthony and Gemma George live at New Lodge Farm, which is a residential property situated yards from the proposed development. The company were keen to meet them to discuss their plans.

Mr. George told the Herald, “We went to a meeting in Chepstow with a RLAND Energy Ltd and they came in with a laptop, which was older than anyone else’s laptop I have ever seen. They showed us the pellets they would be producing and our solicitor immediately told them what they were showing us was in fact rabbit food pellets. If you wanted a mortgage the bank would want to know your history.

These people want millions and nobody seems to check up on them. It looks like they will be taking the government for grant money. RLAND Energy Ltd sent a letter to Mr. And Mrs. George making them an offer for New Lodge Farm The property has been valued in the past at £240,000 but CPP offered them £75,000 eventually upping it to £100,000. The property is also home to a specialist garage, which employs local people and supports local businesses. The Impact Nia Griffith raised concerns about the impact it would have on the environment including traffic issues on the already notoriously dangerous stretch of the A48 between Crosshands and Cwmgwili.

She told the Herald, “As it is designed for 350,000 tonnes of waste when Carmarthenshire only produces 30,000 tonnes per year, that means a lot of waste coming in from elsewhere, and that means a continuous stream of slow moving lorries trying to exit and enter the A48 just past the Cwmgwili junction. Lorries are all supposed to go up the slip road to the food park and down again to access Cwmgwili but residents fear they will just go round Cross Hands roundabout adding smelly lorries to summer congestion.

There are also very real fears about the effects on human and animal health of potential emissions from the plant, and the dangers of fire or explosion.” A similar type of plant in Dumfries in Scotland has been plagued by problems. In 2007, The Sunday Herald revealed that the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) slapped an enforcement notice on Scotgen, a company trying to commission a pioneering “energyfrom- waste” plant at Dargavel in Dumfries. This followed an admission that the plant breached safety limits by emitting more cancer-causing dioxins than permitted in October 2013, and then failed to promptly inform Sepa. It has been ordered to restrict operations, and ensure that monitoring results are provided as soon as possible.

Scotgen is also under investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following a “pipe burst” at the Dargavel plant in August 2013. According to a report, nearby pipework and a roof were damaged by a steam explosion. The Llanelli MP has expressed graveconcerns regarding the proposals saying: “The more we find out about this proposal, the more worrying it is. Information we have obtained has revealed that to be viable this waste plant will need to receive more black bag rubbish than the total volume sent to landfill in the six counties of South West Wales put together. The action group has also carried out research into potential emissions which makes for frightening reading, and they have heard from residents living near other similar waste stations about the stomach-wrenching odours produced by the piles of black bag rubbish and organic waste waiting to be processed far worse than anything coming from Nantycaws now.”

Speaking about the impact on fauna and flora she said, “Highly polluted waste water and run off from the heavily contaminated land seems destined to go into the River Gwili which borders the site, and goes straight into the Burry Inlet with its unique shellfish industry. Speaking to experts, we have discovered that there would appear to be serious shortcomings in the technical specifications, such as the lack of specific data on the processes to be used, making it impossible to calculate the nature of the emissions that will be produced.

To raise the temperature sufficiently to make these processes work, the plant would need a constant supply of the high energy components in waste, such as cardboard and plastics.” Nia Griffith also questioned why the council were considering burning waste rather than recycling when they are ranked second out of 182 councils in the UK in waste recycling efficiency. She told the Herald: “Carmarthenshire currently recycles. So deciding to burn rubbish instead of recycling would be a very backward step indeed. There are also significant dangers associated with the build-up of oxygen which has resulted in explosions and loss of life elsewhere.”

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Man jailed for assaulting three officers during arrest

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THREE female officers carrying out their duties suffered injuries in an unprovoked attack at the hands of the man they were trying to arrest.

Officers had executed a warrant at the home of John Steven Knight, in Stafford Street, Llanelli, for an unrelated matter. Because the 37-year-old was not home, PC Jaye Blanco-Martin, DC Eleri Owen and colleague who does not want to be named, attended his work in Ammanford.

As officers spoke with Knight he was initially calm and compliant. But then he tried to unlock his phone.

The DC who is not being named said: “In fear that Knight was attempting to delete evidence and frustrate a police investigation I took hold of his left arm to try and seize the phone. 

“Knight’s personality and attitude towards the officers changed instantly.

“He moved his phone to his other hand and immediately started to fight us.  He was pulling away clearly trying to escape.

“Out of nowhere I felt a sudden push from Knight using his full body weight and as a direct result of this blow and I fell to the ground and hit my head. I immediately felt pain and discomfort to my head and it started throbbing.” 

In the struggle, all three officers ended up on the floor having been shoved and thrown into furniture, walls and a door frame.

Despite Knight’s efforts, the officers were able to arrest him, although they were left with the marks to show they had been in a struggle.

One officer suffered a suspected head injury that required a CT scan, while all three suffered cuts and bruising to various parts of their bodies.

The officer added: “I was incredibly worried for mine and my colleagues’ safety.  Knight was a well built and over 6ft and had the strength to take three officers to the ground with him.”

Knight appeared at Haverfordwest Magistrates Court on September 29, the day after his arrest, on September 28, when he was sentenced to 12 months in prison.

Following the terrifying ordeal DC Owen said: “During the whole incident I was afraid not just for my safety but also my colleagues.

“That it was only three females with a male who was around 6ft 2ins resisting and assaulting officers made me feel vulnerable.

“I will never forget this, it will be something that stays with me throughout my career. I did not expect to go to work that day to be assaulted. I was just carrying out my duties.”

After a rise in such assaults, Dyfed-Powys Police has linked with Wales’ emergency services to launch the year-long ‘Work With Us, Not Against Us’ campaign.

It came after more than 4,240 assaults were committed against emergency workers, including police, fire and ambulance crews, in the period April 2019 – November 2020, representing a monthly average increase from 202 in 2019 to 222 in 2020, or 10%.

Temporary Deputy Chief Constable of Dyfed-Powys Police, Emma Ackland, said: “Assaults on police officers continues to increase and this is completely unacceptable. No officer should expect to come under any sort of attack when doing their best to serve the public and potentially save lives.

“It is vitally important that sentences given reflect the harm and upset caused to these victims – professionals doing their work.”

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Town centre triumph as food festival returns

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THE people of Llanelli treated themselves on Saturday, October 16 as Llanelli Food and Drink Festival returned for its third stint in the town centre. 

Crowds turned out in droves as hot street food vendors and artisan producers lined the streets in the event organised by Ymlaen Llanelli, the town centre’s Business Improvement District (BID).

Chair of Ymlaen Llanelli, Lesley Richards, was thrilled with the event’s success: “The annual food festival is our biggest event, and it was great to see people excited for it to return after a year away. Our work at Ymlaen Llanelli is all about bringing people together in Llanelli town centre, so we’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone that came along and made the day what it was. We can always rely on the people of Llanelli to bring the party!”

The sun was shining as festival-goers as they tucked into their treats and were entertained as a lineup of acoustic acts took to the stage in Stepney Square. 

Children and adults alike got stuck into the food-themed crafty fun as the vintage pottery bus Annibendod offered Mad Hatter’s Tea Party pottery, while A Taste of Times Past hosted pickling and pasta-making workshops in St Elli Shopping Centre.

BID Manager, Mandy Jenkins, was pleased with the day: “It was brilliant to see town so busy, and we’ve had incredible feedback from our businesses who were choc-a-block on the day. On top of that, the public response has been phenomenal, so we really couldn’t be happier. Thank you Llanelli!”

Ymlaen Llanelli returns for some festive fun with Llanelli Reindeer Parade on Saturday, December 4.

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Police: New scientific evidence shows that David Morris was correctly convicted

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SOUTH WALES POLICE say that an independent investigative assessment into the Clydach murders in 1999 have shown that there is a scientific link between David Morris and a sock, widely accepted as being used by the offender during the killings.

David Morris was found guilty of murdering an entire family of four including two young girls.

But potential new witnesses, along with the views of experts, had given campaigners calling for his release fresh hope.

However Morris, 59, died in prison in August.

He spent 22 years in jail for killing Mandy Power, 34, her daughters Katie, 10, and Emily, aged eight, and her 80-year-old mother Doris Dawson.

A bid to again take his case to the Court of Appeal was rejected in 2018 by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

In July the Crown Prosecution Service said no information had been provided by the potential new witnesses to undermine the conviction.

The review, which was being overseen by Devon and Cornwall Police, was then expected to move on to look at forensic issues also challenged in a recent BBC television documentary about the killings.

Police say that the scientific examination of the sock has identified the presence of a mixed *Y-STR profile using technology which would not have been available to the original investigation team over 20 years ago.

While the presence of a link to Morris (or a male relative of his paternal lineage) and the mixed Y-STR profile has been identified, the science cannot determine how or when this profile was transferred onto the exhibit, but the conclusion of scientists is that it is “more likely” that Morris contributed to the DNA profile found on two different areas of the blood-stained sock than if he did not contribute DNA to them.

Following the tragic events in Kelvin Road, Clydach in June 1999, South Wales Police carried out an extensive investigation into the murders and the scale of the investigation was the largest and most complex ever undertaken by a Welsh police force.

In 2002, David Morris was convicted of the murders by a unanimous verdict at Swansea Crown Court. His conviction was overturned on appeal due to a conflict of interest by a defence solicitor. A retrial was held at Newport Crown Court in 2006 and Morris was convicted again. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The matter has been considered by the Criminal Cases Review Commission as recently as 2018. Following a thorough review of the case material they decided not to refer it to the Court of Appeal as no new evidence had been identified.

In November 2020, legal representatives of Morris contacted South Wales Police requesting the release of various exhibits from the investigation.

This request was the subject of careful consideration and the force decided on a course of action which involved the appointment of an independent senior investigating officer and an independent forensic laboratory to oversee a forensic review of the case material.

This work – carried out under the banner of Operation Dolomite – has been led by experienced detectives Steve Carey and Ian Ringrose, supported by police forensic expert David Lloyd, all of whom are from Devon & Cornwall Police. An independent forensic science laboratory, Cellmark Forensic Services, was commissioned to carry out forensic work.

Following the death of David Morris on 20th August 2021, permission was given by his family to obtain a blood sample to allow forensic examinations to take place.

Assistant Chief Constable David Thorne, of South Wales Police, said: “The decision to carry out an investigative assessment did not constitute a reopening or reinvestigation of the murders, nor did it demonstrate any lack of confidence in the conviction of Morris and the subsequent case reviews. Morris was convicted unanimously by a jury on the strength of the prosecution case and independent reviews by the Criminal Cases Review Commission have never identified any evidence which would determine the conviction to be unsafe.

“However, the advancement of forensic technology has provided the opportunity for evidence-based answers to some of the questions which have been raised about forensic issues in this case, along with other matters raised by the BBC Wales documentary ‘Beyond Reasonable Doubt’. The appointment of Steve Carey and his team has ensured the review has been conducted with a layer of independence.”

The outcome of the investigative assessment has been communicated to the victims’ families, the family and legal representatives of Morris and others affected by this case.

Mr Carey said: “My team has carefully examined the issues raised and subject to the terms of reference for Operation Dolomite.

“In the opinion of the forensic scientist regarding these results – which were obtained from samples extracted from two separate areas of the sock at the time of the original forensic examination – it is more likely that David Morris (or a close paternal-line male relative of his) contributed DNA to them than if he did not.

“In relation to one sample, the lead forensic scientist has stated to me that in his opinion the low-level and incomplete mixed Y-STR result is as would be expected if Morris had contributed DNA to it. For another person to have contributed to it, the components must match by chance.

“The scientist would have a very low expectation of selecting a male individual at random from the Western European population having components in their Y-STR profile being represented to the same extent as those in the Y-STR profile of Morris.

“To test this, an evaluative tool developed by Cellmark Forensic Services showed that from a dataset of 9,357 Western European males, no-one is represented to the same extent as the component in the Y-STR profile of Morris.

“It should be noted that the results do not allow the scientist to interpret how the DNA got onto the sock and therefore whether this was through directly touching the item or indirect transfer but the identification of this link has been possible due to the development of technology which would not have been available to the original investigation team.

“This is significant as the sock was recovered from the murder scene and it was widely accepted that it was used by the killer.

“The outcome of the forensic assessment and completion of further actions have not established any information that undermines the conviction of Morris. In my view, as the independent senior investigating officer, the new findings from the samples taken from the sock support the existing evidence that originally convicted him.”

Operation Dolomite also investigated accounts provided by two witnesses who featured in the BBC documentary. They were interviewed by officers and several enquiries were conducted to try and corroborate and support their accounts.  All this evidence was shared with the Crown Prosecution Service. None of the information provided by the witnesses undermines the conviction of Morris.

ACC Thorne added: “Notwithstanding the fact that Morris has been convicted based on overwhelming evidence against him, South Wales Police has shown a commitment to providing evidence-based answers to the issues which have been raised about this case over many years.

“This commitment has now resulted in a forensic link between the convicted killer David Morris and an item of great significance which was recovered from the murder scene. South Wales Police commissioned the review in the hope that we could in some way provide closure for those most affected by the murders. In particular, those who lost three generations of the same family and have had to revisit those painful memories time and time again over the last two decades.

“The findings from Operation Dolomite will be shared with the Criminal Cases Review Commission to complete the due process and demonstrate transparency.  However, in the knowledge of the conclusions drawn from this review, South Wales Police would like to show respect to the family and those affected by these terrible crimes by finalising this case.

“Our thoughts as ever remain with the family of Mandy Power, her children Katie, aged 10, and Emily, eight, and her 80-year-old mother Doris, who still experience such painful memories even to this day.”

Following the refusal by the CPS to look at new evidence before David Morris died, Janiene Morris, one of David Morris’s two daughters, said: “This is another massive blow to dad’s case and as a family we just don’t understand it.”

She said at the time that the evidence of a taxi driver who had sighted unidentified people near the murder scene had been discounted. In all, she said there were three witnesses that had placed others near the murder scene on the night of the killings.

“We’ve never met them and don’t want to because we want to do things properly. These witnesses have was not involved with anyone in the case and have absolutely no reason to lie. I cannot express how angry and frustrated we are right now. It is so frustrating, but we’re not going to take it lying down”.

Speaking in July, Janiene said: “He is up and down. He has good days and and bad days. Sometimes he is just exhausted with everything that is going on. We are looking forward to seeing him.”

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