Clydebank residents in plastics plant protest

CLYDEBANK residents turned out in their numbers on Sunday to protest the creation of a new £20 million plastic-to-hydrogen centre in the town.

Despite the wet weather, the group gathered on Dock Street with the demonstration kicking off at 2pm and lasting for around 30 minutes. 

Bankies voiced their frustration and disapproval of plans for the facility which were approved last month by West Dunbartonshire Council.

Demonstrators could be seen holding signs with some reading “Clydebank says NO plastic incinerator” and “Nicola (Sturgeon) is this your legacy?”.

The Post previously reported that the centre is set to be created on Clydebank’s waterfront at Rothesay Dock and would divert non-recyclable plastic from landfills, incineration, or export overseas to create a local source for clean fuel for buses, cars, and HGVs.

Plans were lodged by Peel NRE, part of Peel L&P, and it would be the firm’s second plastic-to-hydrogen facility after one in Cheshire. 

Developers are aiming for work to begin next year and for the site to be open and operational from as early as 2024.

Planning permission for the facility was granted at a meeting of West Dunbartonshire Council’s planning committee on June 8.

After the decision, Richard Barker, development director at Peel NRE, said: “This is a fantastic moment for West Dunbartonshire and the surrounding area.

“It shows how the UK is innovating when it comes to rolling out new net-zero technologies.

“The facility will address the dual challenge of both tackling our problem of plastic whilst creating hydrogen, a sustainable fuel for future generations.

“Whilst the focus must remain on removing plastic from society, there are still end-of-life plastics that need managing.

“The £20m plant will play a pivotal role in making the best use of non-recyclable material, with the resulting hydrogen able to help cut carbon emissions from vehicles.”

However, local residents claim they were not properly consulted about the plans before they were approved.

Kenneth Little, who lives close by to the proposed site, told the Post that the centre will turn Clydebank into a “plastic dumping ground”.

He said: “I stay very close to it and yet I didn’t get to hear anything about it. When Network Rail on the railway lines decides to cut down even a branch of a tree they tell everybody.

“Every couple of months we get a ‘dear railway neighbours’ letter, they let you know.

“So, before we knew anything about it West Dunbartonshire Council approved it. How can that be?

“They are going to turn Clydebank into a plastic dumping ground.”

Mr Little recently launched a petition to stop the incinerator from being built in the town which has so far gathered over 1,100 signatures. 

A second protestor who asked to remain anonymous said that the approval of the plans was “concerning”.

They added:”Even more concerning is the fact that it is located so close to the fuel depot situated down by the river.

“It’s funny that they knocked back a trampoline facility a number of years ago on the grounds of safety, but an industrial complex with the intended use of burning waste plastics – and the potentially explosive accidents that could occur should the worst happen – is completely safe?”

Local councillor for Clydebank Waterfront James McElhill also went along to Sunday’s protest and said that the reported lack of community consultation is “totally unacceptable”.

Councillor McElhill added: “I am fully behind those folk who oppose this planned development.

“Despite what the company claims, there has been no consultation whatsoever with the local community and the local community council.

“The company decided instead to consult with groups in Yoker, Garscadden and Scotstounhill in Glasgow, which are nowhere near the site and in an entirely different local authority area, and that is totally unacceptable to me.

“I have a number of concerns with this development and the way in which it has been brought forward and not only with its woeful lack of consultation.

“I went along to the gathering yesterday to talk with people and I completely share their anger and frustration.

“I am now in touch with officers of the Council, and others, regarding the whole matter and seeking ways for the local community and the people of Clydebank to be heard loud and clear.”

Myles Kitcher, Managing Director at Peel NRE, said: “Society is facing many challenges that need innovative solutions and Scotland is no exception.

“That includes the need to deal with our problem plastic, as well as cut carbon emissions from transport – which is one of the biggest carbon emitters.

“Our plans, approved by West Dunbartonshire Council, are for a relatively small-scale facility that provides a solution for processing plastics that can’t be recycled.

“The technology will use this plastic to create a local source of hydrogen – an alternative clean fuel for HGVs, buses and cars.

“Our studies show that the treatment used would be better and produce less carbon than alternative methods, such as sending the plastic for incineration.

“This plant will be an investment in local energy infrastructure, with a hydrogen refuelling station on site.

“We consulted local community groups and stakeholders closest to the site before submission and publicised the plans in the local and national press.

“Both the Scottish and UK Government are on a mission to decarbonise our communities and economies in order to reach Net Zero.

“If that’s to happen, we need to embrace new ways of how we deal with our waste and how we generate our energy.”

Rothesay Dock was originally used for shipping coal and minerals, then railway sidings and coal hoists for ship loading, then a scrap yard and largely derelict for years. An oil storage depot is to the north-west of the planned new facility.

West Dunbartonshire Council and the Scottish Government have been contacted for comment.

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