Below is the text of a letter sent today to Helius Energy concerning their plans to develop a biomass power station in the Western Docks.
As the representatives of the public you are supposed to be consulting with, we are yet again politely requesting that you demonstrate some recognition of the fact that what is purely 'business' to you is actually impacting the lives of Southampton residents in a very negative way – we are the very same people that you continually say you want to work with and provide something which will be of great benefit to us all.
We still feel you are choosing to ignore the inadequacy of your application to date and we will summarise our reasons once again for your consideration:
· The original public consultation had to be extended after questions of its adequacy and timings were raised by residents and Southampton City Council who felt your efforts fell short of what they should have been.
· The consultation was then extended to include additional public exhibitions, but as previously detailed to you, as a community we felt that the public exhibitions fell short on a number of grounds. These failings prevented the community from fully understanding your project proposal and therefore gave rise to our calls of inadequacy as you failed to meet your statutory obligations with regards to the public consultation.
· Instead of submitting your application to the IPC after the completion of the public consultation, you chose to add an additional phase of consultations based on revisions to the scale and siting of the project. To us, that meant the project was changing so drastically that it could no longer be regarded as an extension but should form a completely new application for avoidance of confusion on what exactly this project is.
· You originally stated a summer consultation for this additional phase; we requested you delayed this until Sept/Oct time to prevent any issues with the (School) summer holiday period. You refused this request and stated that was why it was planned as a 10 week consultation period.
· No direct contact was made with any of the parties that had registered an interest in this project to alert them to the new timetable. You advertised only through press releases and your own website.
· Then, four weeks later, during the very week when the planned consultation was supposed to start, you announced – via a Press Release – that you were delaying until Autumn for the benefit of the residents.
· Again there was no direct contact with any of the registered interested parties. To state your reasons as being for the benefit of the residents is laughable and, to cite the cliché, effectively added insult to injury. Your press release claiming your actions were for the benefit of the residents could be assessed as the most ill-advised piece of copy writing to date!
· By refusing to listen to and work with the community you affected peoples holiday plans and caused great distress and inconvenience.
· We waited throughout September for details of the Autumn consultation. Nothing was announced.
We now discover via an update to the IPC website that the expected application date has moved to April/May 2012. This indicates that there have been discussions between Helius and the IPC, yet nothing has appeared on the official site or the main Helius site.
The community feel that your previous actions to date have led to a complete mistrust and a feeling that you purposely plan things to go "under the radar" and co-incide with the worst possible times for the residents! We are also aware that there are legislation changes that could affect your business plans/investment chances and as such we are now asking for answers to the following questions:
1. Do you now have a definite time plan for the additional public consultation period that will enable you to submit an application in April/May 2012?
2. If you do not have the answer to the above could we have a definite statement of "not before this date" so that people can go about planning their lives without the fear and threat of missing something important from you?
3. In light of the unknowns, the obvious delays to your plans and the fact the consultation to date has been so inadequate, we ask once again whether you could abandon this proposal and come back when you have a project that is acceptable both to you as a business proposition and to us as a community?
In doing the above your company could create a project proposal in a timescale that fitted entirely with your company’s plans and with no pressure from a waiting community. This fully complete application could then be promoted by yourselves using the feedback received by the public and statutory bodies on the current inadequate application, to ensure that the new, changed project had the level of community involvement needed to adequately consult with us in explaining and presenting your new plans. The whole point of the IPC process was to provide speedy applications and decisions yet Helius seem to want to slow down the application at every point - In our opinion this in itself leads to mis-understanding and confusion with the public, as people ask why a developer would want to do the very thing the IPC was set up to prevent happening to developers?
As a community we would also benefit from having a well thought out project, one that is also fully organised and would then concisely and coherently be presented to us for our engagement and feedback. This would allow any new project to be judged purely on its merits, unlike the current project that is dogged by the ongoing mis-information conveyed by your poorly expressed plans and mis-management of the consultation process to date.
The advantages of your doing what we suggest is that your actions would immediately cease to have any negative affects on our community - in fact your company could benefit from being shown to have actually listened and worked with a community, allowing future plans to be accepted under a more welcoming banner than the response your company currently receives within our community due to the problems (outlined above) over your previous interactions with us.
On Behalf of the No Southampton Biomass Group