We always welcome a Letter to the Editor to share with our readers. This one from Cowes resident, James Luke. Ed
Despite being an ordinary person with little interest in politics, I have recently become an open and vocal opponent of the proposed Asphalt Plant in Cowes. With no previous experience of campaigning, I am concerned by just how one sided the argument appears.
Last week a comment on the On The Wight Website, posted under the alias “Mr Einstein’s Ghost”, stated that the plant “will be built – should be built”. My response was to ask why the plant should be built …. sadly I heard no more.
What is the value?
Therefore, I would like to ask supporters of the proposed Asphalt Plant to explain the exact value of the proposal to the Island and to Islanders. This is a genuine question that I would like to extend to Eurovia, the IW Council and anyone who actually supports this proposal.
What exactly is the value of the proposed Asphalt Plant to Islanders?
In their planning application, Eurovia have described the Asphalt Plant as “strategically important” to the Island but stop short of explaining why. Recently the Planning Department of the IW Council have, in a closed meeting with Eurovia, agreed relaxed noise criteria for the planning application.
No justification for relaxing planning criteria has been given and we can only assume that it is because the application is considered “strategically important”. Clearly, the Applicant is incentivised by profit to build the plant …. however the profitability of Eurovia and their offshore bankers based in Luxembourg (the same tax haven used by Starbucks) does not make the plant “strategically important” to Islanders.
Council deny link
The IW Council have very clearly denied any link between the planning application and the PFI Contract. Council Leader David Pugh, Councillor Ed Giles and PFI Director Jay Jayasundara have all publicly stated that the PFI can be delivered without the Asphalt Plant.
Given that the plant isn’t needed for the PFI, why is it considered “strategically important”?
Doesn’t appear to be any benefit for the Island
Contentious planning decisions often result from situations where the needs of the general population conflict with the needs of individuals who will be dis-advantaged. For example, when building a new road or school or hospital.
In this case there doesn’t appear to be any benefit for the Island. Asphalt production is not an emerging growth industry and it’s hard to envision the Island becoming a global leader in this industry.
There is an existing Asphalt Plant on the Island so a new plant in Cowes will simply be taking business from the existing plant. Any jobs created at the new plant will almost certainly be accompanied by job losses at the existing plant.
This proposal does not bring new skills or capability to the Island and will not grow to be a large employer. We can’t grow the Island economy by selling Asphalt to the mainland and there is a finite market on the Island. There isn’t therefore any case based on economic growth.
“All pain no gain”
I therefore trust that supporters of the proposal will do more than state “we need to encourage industry”. That’s not what is happening here!
For Islanders this application looks like a case of “all pain no gain”.
Accused of scaremongering
In stating that the Asphalt Plant “should be built”, Mr Einstein’s Ghost also accused objectors of scaremongering. Islanders will recall that we had a similar situation last year when Council Leader David Pugh stated on IW Radio that opponents of the plans were scaremongering.
Following that accusation, I wrote to Councillor Pugh asking him to substantiate his comment. Councillor Pugh initially ignored my letter until I asked the question through the media.
At that point, Councillor Pugh replied stating that one of the original images shown on the WRAP Web site was an unfair representation of the proposed plant. Councillor Pugh made no comment about the health, pollution, dust, odour, noise, traffic congestion, tourism and overall economic concerns of objectors.
Like Councillor Pugh, Mr Einstein’s Ghost also failed to provide any further substantiation of his scaremongering accusation.
Over the last six months I’ve spent a lot of time studying the proposals for the Asphalt Plant. I’ve read page after page of argument against the plans but no argument for.
My question for Eurovia, our elected officials and anyone else who supports the proposals is simple …. what value does this proposed plant bring to the Island and the people who live here?