Cumbria

Row over Barrow biomass plant meeting

Tensions have been raised ahead of a public meeting about plans to build a biomass power plant in Cumbria.

Centrica Energy wants to demolish its Roosecote plant, near Barrow, and build a larger biomass facility.

Barrow MP John Woodcock had been due to chair the debate but stepped aside after a campaign group opposing the plans questioned his impartiality.

They declined an invitation to be on the panel but will be at the meeting at The Forum at 18:00 BST.

Centrica plans to build the biomass power station on the site of the existing gas-fired station and plans to submit a planning application in the summer.

The campaign group Furness Opposes Biomass has gathered nearly 6,000 signatures on a petition.

'Strict standards'

Campaigner Ray Guselli, who is also a Conservative borough councillor, said they had found out late about the meeting at The Forum on Friday evening and their availability should have been checked.

He also said he had been concerned about Labour MP Mr Woodcock chairing the debate because he said he was not neutral and has said the wood-fuelled power plant could be good job-wise, for the area.

Mr Woodcock said: "I think that this idea of a biomass plant in the area can be really good for jobs and growth and could be a good thing provided the really strict environmental standards that we have in this country are met to protect local residents and that their concerns in other areas are addressed too."

He said he was disappointed the group would not be on the panel and said he had hoped they would talk more about the images they used in their campaign, including people wearing protective masks.

Mr Guselli said: "In terms of the imagery that we have used I am glad that we have because it has heightened the campaign and made people aware of what's happening."

The campaign group has said it is concerned about emissions from the proposed plant.

Allan McLaughlin, from Centrica, said: "The government would not allow biomass power stations to be built if they were damaging to health.

"We will use the best available techniques and filters to make sure the omissions are meeting the required levels.

"We are engaging with people, we are talking with people, but I have got to say a lot of the health concerns that are being put around are based on misleading science."

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