Wednesday, 25 February 2015

More than just money down the drain!

The decision by Borders councillors to tear up a £65 million contract for a waste treatment and power generating plant at Galashiels appears to have rendered many thousands of man (and woman) hours a complete waste of time, not to mention the well reported seven-figure financial losses linked to the project's abject failure.

Tucked away in a remote corner of the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency's website can be found a vast assemblage of documentation, running to around a thousand pages, prepared and submitted to SEPA in a bid to secure permission to vary the conditions of a permit to run the Easter Langlee facility.

Now, of course, the certificate will not be required. But the entire process may have to be repeated should the doomed plans for a District Heating (DH) scheme for Galashiels be resurrected. Even a cursory look at the redundant paperwork supporting the application gives an indication of the sheer scale of the effort involved in working up the proposals for the impressively named Easter Langlee Advanced Thermal Treatment Facility Heat and Power Plan.

SEPA's webpage devoted to the Borders project contains the warning: "due to the size of the full application it cannot be forwarded by email". One wonders how many pages of unpublished script, maps, drawings, artists' impressions and technical tables lurk on the compact disc which is/was apparently available on demand.

It was certainly good of the agency to distil the much larger collection of material down to a bite-sized 1,000 pages or so. The literature outlining the ambitious DH scheme alone amounts to 350 pages, including 11 appendices and a 17-page 'offer' from Scottish Power to connect the plant to the electricity distribution system in Galashiels at an estimated cost of £926,331.

This vast report, drawn together by consultants Energetic Project Management, envisaged large swathes of properties on the Langlee housing estate owned by social landlords, nearby private housing schemes, local industrial premises, council-owned properties and buildings occupied by educational establishments being converted and then heated by waste material converted into electricity at the revolutionary New Earth Solutions plant.

A series of consultations was held involving almost 30 top officials and private sector executives from Scottish Borders Housing Association, Eildon Housing Association, Persimmon Homes, Scottish Borders Council, Borders College, Heriot-Watt University, Forth Resource Management Ltd, Schofield, dyers and finishers, Network Rail and the Borders Energy Agency.

But one major player appears to have been less than impressed by the DH scheme, even at this early stage. The other social landlord with a substantial property portfolio at Langlee is Waverley Housing Association (WHA) with a long block of maisonettes in Beech Avenue and cottages in Laurel Grove and Larch Grove.

The report admits:."Several attempts have been made to include WHA in this exercise (by telephone and post), but they have declined to respond. It may be that this will change when the project is in development."

A great deal of time must have been spent calculating the individual energy requirements of more than 400 SBHA tenancies together with similar data for the council's own estate. But the results are laid out for all to see.

Correspondence between the various parties involved in information gathering shows SBHA had confirmed their interest in the concept even before the SEPA application was lodged. The association was also willing to consider the option of shareholding in the energy supply company which was to have been set up to operate the DH scheme.

Now all of the bold ideas, the dreams and the green ideals associated with the Easter Langlee Advanced Thermal Treatment Facility Heat and Power Plan (ELATTFHPP for short!) have been shattered, and for now the glossy brochures and technical reports produced at great cost by the teams of planners and consultants along with the unclaimed CDs will be left to gather dust. Perhaps someone out there will be able to calculate the losses in terms of hours and resources devoted to ELATTFHPP.

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