by EWAN LAMB
Borders councillors who gave "world-leading" technology their unanimous support less than three years ago after being told the business fronting the venture would deliver cheap power to hundreds of homes, schools and commercial premises in Galashiels may be unaware the firm concerned is to be struck off the Companies register.
The £10 fee required for the necessary paperwork to kill off Scottish Borders District Heating Company Ltd. will be the last financial outlay on a failed project which may have cost its parent group and Scottish Borders Council (SBC) a small fortune for the elaborate studies, research and negotiations carried out by consultants and local authority staff over two years.
The demise of the district heating company, part of the myriad of businesses which form New Earth Solutions Group (NES) is just the latest of SBC's disastrous waste management contract with NES which had to be abandoned a year ago because of insurmountable funding and technological issues.
However another NES creation, New Earth Solutions (Scottish Borders) Ltd, the special vehicle set up to build a multi-million pounds waste treatment plant at Easter Langlee remains on the Companies House list as an active concern despite the fact that the contract with SBC had to be torn up in February 2015.
The district heating scheme for Galashiels - to be powered by NES's thermal treatment plant - was acclaimed by members of SBC's planning committee when they considered an application in September 2013 even though at that time the form of technology to be incorporated at Easter Langlee was untried and untested. It subsequently turned out to be completely useless, and NES 'sold' it off for nothing during 2015.
At the time the proposals had not even received an operating permit from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). And the 'pioneering' scheme had still not received SEPA approval by the time the contract hit the buffers, suggesting a possible lack of due diligence before the council put pen to paper.
Yet according to a report in the Border Telegraph published after the planning committee meeting several elected members lavishly praised the project. Councillor Michelle Ballantyne declared: "This is good for Galashiels, good for the Borders, and I am comfortable that we should support the application."
Fellow committee member Jim Fullarton said: "This is world-leading technology and deserves our full support". The state-of-the-art plant would, they were told, supply cut price heating to areas of Galashiels.
Details of the district heating scheme were contained in hundreds of pages of documentation which accompanied the permit variation application to SEPA. The project drivers were listed as fuel poverty, decentralised heat production, forecastable fuel prices and the need for 40% carbon reduction by 2020.
A separate Heat and Power Plan prepared in support of the application identified thirteen potential heat users and six "potential future heat off-take opportunities" within close proximity of the thermal treatment plant site.
This report identified possible users as homes under the control of three separate housing associations, Langlee Primary School and Scottish Borders College, Glenview Children's Home as well as various commercial properties. The list went on identify civic properties under the control of SBC and Heriot Watt University Residences.
Following the collapse of the entire "visionary" project it was probably just as well that up to 500 households on the Langlee estate and beyond were not totally reliant for their future energy needs on the about to become defunct Scottish Borders District Heating Company Ltd which remained dormant throughout its short, inactive life.