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'Chernobyl' fears dismissed as Herne Bay hydrogen plant bid approved

Eye-catching plans for a hydrogen plant have been given the go-ahead - as councillors insist fears held by some residents of a Chernobyl-style disaster are unfounded.

Developer Ryse Hydrogen Ltd launched its bid to build the renewable energy facility on the former Herne Bay BMX Park in Westbrook Lane in January.

The fuel made at the factory will be used to power London buses, before eventually supplying transport providers in Kent
The fuel made at the factory will be used to power London buses, before eventually supplying transport providers in Kent

After the drawings were revealed, Canterbury City Council was inundated with almost 170 letters calling for the proposals to be snubbed.

But at Tuesday’s planning committee meeting, all but one of its members decided to the give the bid the green light.

Seasalter councillor Ashley Clark said: “It’s been variously described by some objectors as Fukushima and Chernobyl – (but it’s) very, very different.

“What is most significant about this is the huge and very important environmental considerations.

“Many of us drive diesel and petrol cars, but the future is with hydrogen.”

Seasalter councillor Ashley Clark
Seasalter councillor Ashley Clark

Ryse plans for the fuel made at the factory to be used to power London buses, before eventually supplying transport providers in Kent.

Objectors put fliers through doors highlighting fears over safety, traffic, its location near to Hampton Primary School and potential to hit property prices in the area.

Cllrs Dan Smith and Pat Edwards raised concerns about a repeat of the kinds of explosions seen at hydrogen plants in North Carolina, America, and Kjørbo, Norway, in April and last June.

In both cases, nobody was hurt, but about 60 buildings were damaged in the US blast.

The councillors argued that the bunds planned to surround the site in Herne Bay should be enhanced in order to protect nearby homes.

Blean Forest councillor Dan Smith
Blean Forest councillor Dan Smith

Cllr Smith added: “It does worry me that the properties on the other side of the railway and the other side of the Thanet Way are within the range that windows could be shattered, should such an event ever happen - and I appreciate that’s pretty unlikely.”

Councillors agreed to add a condition to the planning permission preventing vehicles from taking right-hand turns as they enter and leave Westbrook Lane from the Thanet Way.

Ryse expects the scheme to create as many as 20 jobs at the three-acre plot, which neighbours the recycling centre.

The fuel made at the factory will initially be trialled on 20 London buses, but the company says it will have the capacity to power up to 300.

The firm’s director, Ian Seddon, told the meeting: “Having the facility in Herne Bay will ensure that Canterbury and Kent will benefit as more vehicle operators demand this new fuel.

A CGI showing how the planned hydrogen station could look
A CGI showing how the planned hydrogen station could look

“This is your chance to take a step towards significantly reducing carbon levels by approving the first commercial-scale hydrogen facility in the UK.

“Safety is a paramount concern for Ryse. Our partners - NEL and Vattenfall - are multi-national corporations and top in their fields with equipment already used worldwide.”

Ryse will connect the plant to a substation - located less than a kilometre from the site - in order for the facility to be powered by energy from the Kentish Flats offshore wind farm.

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