There was no mistaking Ineos’ intention to “push ahead” with its controversial plans for the future of its Grangemouth site.
And there were no punches pulled from residents and members of Grangemouth Community Council who attended a meeting last week to hear about the petrochemical giant’s desire to build a new gas-driven energy plant.
Last Thursday’s meeting in the town’s Community Education Unit was supposed to let Ineos and contractor Jacobs UK present details of their new three-boiler, 35-megawatt, steam-producing development, but focus inevitably shifted to plans to permanently close off a section of Bo’ness Road.
That proposal is now in the hands of Scottish Ministers and the Planning and Environmental Appeals Division.
The matter was supposed to go before Falkirk Council at a meeting of its planning committee on March 29, however it was delayed because Ineos had lodged supplementary information.
Last Thursday, Ineos stated it fully expected the council meeting to be held and that it had followed the statutory process.
The firm admitted it had requested a few extra days to submit some extra information and then the council elections came along in May.
When it still had not been dealt with by the end of July, Ineos appealed the matter to the Scottish Government, because it wanted to “push ahead” with its plans as quickly as possible.
People at the meeting felt Ineos had used circumstances – including the timings of the council elections – to its advantage to ensure the matter sidestepped Falkirk Council and went elsewhere for a decision.
One resident said: “It’s like Ineos has put two fingers up to the local community and bypassed them to go straight to the Scottish Government.”
Ineos representatives said they wanted the government to hold a full public inquiry into the proposals and assured residents the town would feel the economic benefits of both the new energy plant and the road closure, which would ultimately allow the firm to expand the site and create more jobs.
They said they realised there would be an impact on the community if the road was closed, but, with the traffic mitigation measures that would be put in place, the effect would be relatively small when compared to the economic benefits it could bring.
Ineos stated any issues regarding build-up of traffic at the gatehouse it planned to build on Bo’ness Road would be dealt with through a car park where vehicles could stop while awaiting access to the site.
While these measures were welcomed at the meeting, people still felt Ineos was not taking much interest in the effect its plans were going to have on residents.
Community councillor Walter Inglis said: “There are 17,000 people living up close and personal with this site.
“Ineos talks about working in partnerships, but the only partner Ineos is not working satisfactorily with is the community of Grangemouth.
“Ineos focuses on economics and figures – what it is not seeing is the world we live in.
“We have a town centre that’s on its knees, whereas with Ineos here you would think we would have a thriving town centre.”
As far as the energy plant is concerned, Ineos will lodge a planning application with Falkirk Council in October and, because it is classed as a national planning application, it will also go to the Scottish Government for a final decision.
If approval is granted, construction is scheduled to start in 2019 with a completion date of autumn 2020.
Ineos stated the development would employ up to 300 people during construction, although it will not lead directly to an increase in staff once it is built, with employees moving over from the firm’s CHP plant to operate the new facility.
The boiler units would be built off site and shipped in and a pipe bridge unit, also built off site, would stretch over Bo’ness Road at a height of 10 metres, so it would not affect traffic.
Ineos stated it was “best practice” to have pipes go over the road instead of under it and they would also be much easier to maintain.
In terms of this proposal, Ineos said Bo’ness Road would only have to be closed for a short time – no more than a month – to allow the work to carried out.
It added that the new plant would use surplus gas produced on site, putting it to good use rather than wasting it, and would also reduce the need for ground flaring.
The lifespan of the plant would be 25 years, but it could probably stay in operation for 40 years.
Some concerns were raised about the kind of materials being used to power it, but Ineos representatives stated it was not a biomass plant or an incinerator and would be powered by natural gases like methane and ethane.
The firm assured residents no sulphur would be going through the boilers – which were not designed to cope with sulphur – and those materials would instead be dealt with in specially constructed sulphurisation units.
Ineos will be holding public exhibitions of its energy plant plans from 3pm to 8.30pm in Grangemouth Town Hall on Monday, August 28 and Bo’ness Recreation Centre on Tuesday, August 29.
Falkirk Council will be holding a special meeting of members at 2.30pm on Friday, September 15, to discuss the Bo’ness Road closure plans.