Grangemouth biomass fight steps up a gear

An Action Against Agrofuels protester lies down in front of the entrance of the docks to get his point across
An Action Against Agrofuels protester lies down in front of the entrance of the docks to get his point across

Protesters caused mass disruption to freight firms when they blocked off roads in an effort to halt plans for a biomass plant.

Seven people were arrested in protests at Grangemouth Docks last week, which saw around 20 members of Action Against Agrofuels blocking off Central Dock Road and South Shore Road.

Protester Johnny Agnew scales the heights in an effort to halt plans for a biomass plant in Grangemouth

Protester Johnny Agnew scales the heights in an effort to halt plans for a biomass plant in Grangemouth

The demonstration highlighted ongoing opposition to Forth Energy’s multi-million pound plans to locate a biomass burner at the docks.

The developers, who include Forth Ports, insist the plant will benefit the town and bring employment.

But Grangemouth Community Council and Falkirk Council lodged objections to the proposals well before this week’s protest.

One elected representative blasted Forth Energy for treating Grangemouth like a “dumping ground”.

Councillor Robert Spears said: “Feelings are certainly strong in the community about this and I feel the biomass plant is a step too far.

“Grangemouth is fast becoming a dumping ground. We are all for alternative energy, but you just can’t shove everything into Grangemouth. We have a community here – people live here.

“It’s getting to the stage where businesses see Grangemouth as one big factory.”

Malcolm Richards, secretary of the community council, said: “The protesters did not have the courtesy to make contact with us and we were not aware the demonstration would be taking place.

“My own view is people going off on a tangent and protesting like this tend not to do their cause any good.

‘‘We have our own website protesting against plans and are dealing with the matter in our own way.”

Action Against Agrofuels spokeswoman Maryla Hart said: “I think we got our point across. We had to do this because you cannot stop this through the democratic process. At this time we should not be burning more forests.

“Forth Energy has been putting out a lot of propaganda saying this is a form of sustainable energy, but biomass is not a sustainable form of energy.

“If the plant is given the go ahead it will have a knock-on effect all over the world.’’

Calum Wilson, managing director of Forth Energy, said: “The action at the Port of Grangemouth clearly consisted of people from outside the local area who have formed themselves into a minority fringe group.

“While the impact on shipping operations in the port itself was minimised, their actions today disrupted the local community and the livelihoods of members of the haulage industry across Scotland.

“They sought to bypass the proper planning consultation process and could have compromised safety had there been an emergency at the port. The proposed renewable energy plant at Grangemouth will use sustainably sourced fuel, produce low carbon electricity and heat and is safe.

“This plant will produce 84 per cent less carbon than current average electricity generation from the national grid.

“It will make a significant contribution to Scotland achieving renewable energy targets, help provide long-term energy security for Scotland while providing 500 jobs during the construction phase and 70 permanent roles.”

Plans for the plant could go before next month’s meeting of Falkirk Council’s planning committee, but in this case committee members are only statutory consultees and can only make comment on proposals.

The final decision on whether or not the biomass plant is built rests with the Scottish Government’s Energy Consents Unit and, ultimately, the Energy Minister.