Thursday, 18th September 2014

Health row over school heating

HEALTH campaigners have raised fears that eco-friendly heating systems planned for primary schools in the Market Drayton area could harm children’s well-being and cause breathing problems.

Shropshire Council, which has lodged planning applications to install biomass boilers at schools in Hodnet, Woore and Hinstock, has insisted the systems will be safe and that there should be no cause for concern.

The systems, which burn wood pellets, also sparked rows in Edinburgh and Birmingham when local authorities applied to fit them in public buildings.

Now campaigners from the Breathe Clean Air Group have warned the systems could produce waste gases which can cause asthma and other health issues.

Pete Kilvert, chairman of the national pressure group, said education chiefs should be putting children’s health before school budgets.

He added: “The emissions from burning biomass contain a range of toxic chemicals and very fine particulate matter that can cause ill health conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart attacks, strokes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and premature death.

“This could affect pupils, staff and neighbours. Burning biomass produces 50 per cent more carbon dioxide per unit of energy than burning coal and 330 per cent more carbon dioxide than burning natural gas.

“This process is not green nor clean. The destruction of forests is also an ethical issue especially as wood chips may have to be imported from endangered rain forests.”

In a design and access statement submitted with the planning application, Shirehall officials said the biomass boilers would have ‘minimal impact on school activities, pupil circulation and safety’.

The report adds: “If strategic measures are not implemented and the authority’s buildings do not reduce their carbon emissions, under present legislation the authority will be heavily fined.”

Shropshire Council has won funding from the government’s renewable heat incentive scheme to fit environmentally-friendly heating in selected public buildings.

The biomass boilers are seen as a way of tackling soaring energy bills and reducing the authority’s carbon footprint.

The council hopes to have each biomass fully operational by November, subject to planning permission.

Residents have until Tuesday to have their say on the plans for Woore County Primary School, March 20 for the proposals at Hinstock Primary School and March 22 on the plans for Hodnet Primary School.