‘David v Goliath’ battle in Sutton Bridge may end in ruin

Sutton Bridge power station on the banks of the river Nene at Sutton Bridge. ENGANL00120130422101630
Sutton Bridge power station on the banks of the river Nene at Sutton Bridge. ENGANL00120130422101630
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Villagers who fought off a gasifier power station would be bankrupted by a hefty legal bill to derail a second power plant beside the Nene.

Sutton Bridge Parish Council is preparing for a “David and Goliath” fight to overturn Government consent for EDF B, a multi-million, 1800MW combined-cycle power station.

But the battle will not go to judicial review in the High Court because the parish council can’t afford to stump up £30,000 in legal fees – or far more if it were to lose the case.

That figure of £30,000 actually came as something of a relief this week.

Originally villagers were told the bill could be twice at much and threatened to bankrupt the village.

However, parish council chairman John Grimwood said even £30,000 would be too high a bill to be footed by taxpayers.

Former parish councillor Shirley Giles used her own cash to overturn South Holland District Council’s planning consent for the gasifier by going to judicial review.

That cost around £3,500, which the great-granny won back, but now the bill for a second legal action has soared out of everyone’s reach.

Mr Grimwood said: “Again it’s a David and Goliath situation. Basically it’s like big business trying to trample on a very small village.”

He said the legal bill is higher because a group of people would be involved in any potential legal case, rather than one person, the issues are far different and the parish council’s working party switched to new lawyers because the ones who beat the gasifier are no longer involved in this kind of work.

The parish council held an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday night – attended by 30-40 people – when the costs of a legal action were outlined.

It heard that although the Government has given consent for EDF B, the energy company has yet to make an investment decision to build the plant and he said the cash would be wasted if EDF doesn’t go ahead.

If built, EDF B would have three stacks – while the existing gas-fired power station has two – and villagers are worried about potential combined emissions from both plants and those from other industries.

Mr Grimwood said there’s an “orange plume” from the power station, like the one in Spalding, and residents are worried by that.

He also can’t understand why a new plant is even being considered when a similar one in Lynn was decommissioned a few years ago.

Working party member Colin Blundell said the fight will now focus on the Ombudsman, to look at the planning consent, and a separate challenge on Government reasons for giving consent with a view to forcing a rethink.

Mrs Giles said “it’s a shame” the cost of legal action is so high and she agrees with Mr Grimwood that the money can’t come from the parish council.

She said: “It is a rather astronomical price. There just isn’t the money there.”

MP John Hayes has already voiced concerns with his own Government about the power plant going on a riverbank that was almost overtopped by the tidal surge of December 2013, while villagers are worried about a greenfield site being used and any potential risk of harm to The Wash, an internationally protected RAMSAR marine habitat.