Biomass Project : speech in the Dundee City Council debate

25 June 2013

Last night, I voted against the biomass plant, the only councillor East End councillor to do so.

Councillor Will Dawson is employed by SSE thus he did not participate in the debate and the Deputy Lord Provost Christina Roberts left the chamber during the debate.

The debate explored all subjects relevant to the development. Some of the material was very technical. 

The deputations were :

Dr Ann Prescott, a West End Community Councillor and a chemist;

Doug McLaren, environmental activist;

Mary Henderson, Friends of the Earth Tayside;

a representation from Biofuel Watch;

Jim Pickett, president of Dundee and Angus Chamber of Commerce;

and, Callum Wilson, managing director of Forth Energy. 

I questioned five of the six deputations. 

I asked the representative from Biofuel Watch to expand on her comment regarding the Supreme Court ruling.

She noted that on 1 May 2013 the UK government was found to have failed in its legal duty to protect people from the harmful effects of air pollution and faces a fine. 

To Forth Energy, I asked to elaborate how roads with a gradient of more than 5% (such as Greendykes Road and near Carolina Court) will be affected.

 I was told that trucks travelling up the hill need to accelerate more and thus produce more pollution.

Callum Wilson, Forth Ports, noted that the company decided to go forward with the development after an assessment deemed that “it would operate within the current framework with respect to air [quality]”.

So, I asked senior council officers:

2013 is the EU’s Year of Air. 

As a precursor to this, the EU commissioned the UN’s World Health Organisation to review the European air quality standards.

The report found that the current air quality levels are having an adverse impact on people especially children.

In September, I believe the EU is expected to publish new standards.

How will this development be affected by these possible changes?

The Director of City Development, Mike Galloway, responded that Sepa always reviews and implements new regulations and the development would need to adhere to any new standards.    

We then moved to the decision stage. It was clear that there were three proposals to object to the submission.

After some discussion, it was decided that my Labour Group colleague Councillor Richard McCready’s amendment would be put forward.

It states:

Dundee City Council objects to the application on the grounds that emissions resulting from the development will exacerbate air quality standards in the City resulting in an adverse impact on public health and development, by reason of height, scale and massing, would adversely impact on the visual amenity of the City and would form a discordant feature on the Waterfront.

In my speech prior to voting, I stated:

I strongly support organisations coming to Dundee to create jobs just as the rest of the Councillors; however, I agree with Baillie Borthwick that we have a duty to not ignore health concerns.  

Having read the correspondence from parents and grandparents regarding their concerns about the health implications - especially on children - of this development, and as a mother of three boys, I share these concerns.

So, in addition to reading to reading to the Forth Ports reports, the Council report and the letters and emails from concerned constituents, I decided to research further the health consequences of biomass plants.

Findings in a paper published in the Global Journal of Health Science in April 2013 suggest air pollution exposure from biomass fuel is associated with lung problems and inflammation of the airways.

The American Lung Association suggest burning biomass could lead to significant increases in emissions of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and sulphur dioxide, and have severe impacts on the health of children, older adults, and people with lung diseases.

Lung inflammation can become a disease when the trigger, air pollution, persists.

Moreover, states Schwartz in the journal of Pediatrics: 

“Children’s exposure to air pollution is a special concern because their immune system and lungs are not fully developed when exposure begins, raising the possibility of different responses than seen in adults.

In addition, children spend more time outside, where the concentrations of pollution from traffic, powerplants, and other combustion sources are generally higher.

Although air pollution has long been thought to exacerbate minor acute illnesses, recent studies have suggested that air pollution is associated with infant mortality and the development of asthma[.]”

Thus, given this evidence, I think we ought to be cautious and adopt the precautionary principle.

So, Convenor, to your comments regarding Dundee -

Dundee is open for business? Yes.

Dundee is welcoming investment? Yes.  

Dundee values its citizens' health? Yes.

And especially our children’s.

Please support the amendment.

I am delighted to report that amendment was carried by a majority of 20 to 6.

It is important to note, this is not the end of the matter.

We expect a public inquiry to be held into the development.


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