Letter: Pollution on the Medina

On The Wight reader questions whether the Isle of Wight council have done enough to protect residents from the risk of ‘pollution generating projects’ on the River Medina.

We always welcome a Letter to the Editor to share with our readers. This one from Tony Cawley questions the actions of the Isle of Wight council over proposed asphalt and biomass plants. Ed

The Isle of Wight has a very high rate of asthma and COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), about one third higher than the national average.

These figures are based on Freedom of Information data from St. Mary’s Hospital and figures published by the IOW’s Joint Strategic Needs Assessment 2011.

The public want answers
Given that these illnesses can be largely attributed to air purity, the public are entitled to ask why the Isle of Wight Council is not taking a robust stand against the introduction of what I consider to be pollution generating projects along the Medina River.

These include the Eurovia asphalt plant and road stone recycling plant, the proposed biomass incinerators for a power station and a biomass grain drying plant.

Now we learn that a further source of air pollution is proposed in the form of a digestion plant creating and burning methane gas; surplus gas would be burned off with an open flame. (Anyone old enough to remember the Fawley Flame and the appalling emissions connected with that?)

Fine particulates found to affect human health
All these plants will emit fine particulates which can carry very long distances and remain airborne. They have been proven to cause not only respiratory diseases, but also increase mortality rates particularly amongst the very old and very young.

They enter deeply into the lungs and can carry associated chemicals into the bloodstream – it is thought that they may be able to cross the brain blood barrier to have a direct affect on the functioning of the brain.

The World Health Organisation and our own UK COMEAP (Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants) have clearly stated that there is no level at which this pollution does not affect human health.

COMEAP have even published research statistics directly relating increases in fine particulates to increases in mortality, (the figures are available on the COMEAP website). The NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) states that any potentially polluting project should be considered from the point of view of its cumulative local effect on air purity.

Why are council ignoring this?
One has to ask if the IOW Council has chosen to ignore this. They apparently have never actually measured air quality in the area concerned, so arriving at a cumulative figure may be quite challenging.

Since the Council have the oversight of all these projects, it must surely be their responsibility to realistically review the cumulative effect of all these subsidy seeking projects on Cowes and the other nearby areas.

Prevailing winds will carry all these damaging fine particulates down to a heavily populated area.

Time for a clear explanation from council
In the event that this letter is published, will this information be dismissed once again as “scaremongering”?

It is time we had a clear explanation from the Council leaders explaining their policy on air purity and how they intend to deal with EU regulations limiting the emission of fine particulates and the clear clinical warnings from authoritative sources such as COMEAP.

They should be working to protect our interests and the long term health of future Island citizens.

Health effects of fine particulates

Image: Net Efekt under CC BY 2.0

Sunday, 18th November, 2012 11:38am


ShortURL: http://wig.ht/2aft

Filed under: Cowes, East Cowes, Letter to the Editor

Print Friendly


Any views or opinions presented in the comments below are solely those of the author and do not represent those of OnTheWight.


  1. Tanja Rebel

    18.Nov.2012 6:06pm

    The suggested plants are all part of the intended re-industrialisation of the River Medina and they are not green for one iota. As this excellent letter so clearly sets out, they would cause significant air (and probably water) pollution with all the associated health risks.

    One can wonder why our rulers are so bent on destroying this sensitive eco-habitat, which after all is an area of Special Scientific Interest and should really be declared an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. What’s more, the cycle path along the river is the green gateway in to the island.

    What kind of message are we sending to tourists when we adorn the cycle path with asphalt, biomass and digestion plants? Welcome to the Isle of Wight or will it become the Isle of Sh…?

    • what kind of message are we sending by refusing to contribute to our own power generation? We want electricity so long as we dont have to put up with anything spoiling the air, the view or the water. We draw 600 GWh of power from the mainland every year. Why should areas of the mainland put up with pollution for the power we are using?
      Of course we could bung up some windmills, but thats not allowed either cause it might spoil the view.
      We want shiny new roads, Bardon Vectis would be a good alternative, but instead it will come from the mainland because Bardon Vectis is apparently overpriced.

      The environmental impact of industrialization should always be considered – alongside the economic impact. Expecting the mainland to continue to generate our power for us is uneconomical, and unmoral. If we want things like power and roads we should accept a modest amount of pollution in the correct place. Is the medina valley that place? possibly, but there might be better sites. Is the mainland the place? Definitely not.

  2. Chilling reading. Perhaps we should be fund-raising for legal advice & legal action?

  3. Tanja Rebel

    18.Nov.2012 7:35pm

    To Jon: You are right that we need to localise our energy production. However, when doing this we need to think carefully what and where: Large-scale biomass, which gets its fuel from abroad and which spouts out pollutants is not sustainable nor is it particularly frugal or environmental to build a new asphalt plant – along a riverside and near to residential area’s – when we already have one.

    The economic and environmental impact need to be considered indeed, but lets not forget the aesthetic impact. The beautiful River Medina valley would not be the place to put anything large-scale and polluting. Better to put our efforts into solar and tidal energy as well as energy conservation. The last one could save us from building many a plant…

    • so where exactly do you suggest on the island and off?

      Solar panels cover vast areas for little return.
      Tidal energy is a good alternative, but on an island surrounded by shipping lanes would be difficult to impliment, and even more difficult to maintain.
      Decentralisation is the key. Make it mandatory for every Island building to produce some of its own power through solar or wind – however homeowners cant afford that, and the council wont subsidise.

      So… plants will be needed, as distasteful as that is. Where do you suggest they are located? Whereever you put them, someone will object.

  4. i suffer from copd, i know people around my area have different breathing problems, we live near the medina, the air is mostly clean, the only major problem is the rotting seaweed but our town council dont seem interested in that, these new plants WILL make a difference to the way we live, the particles WILL spread far and wide, the smells WILL pervade the area, i, like most others, have no idea where else to build these plants, all i know is i would prefer not to have them IN MY BACK YARD

  5. James Luke

    18.Nov.2012 9:34pm

    Any debate on whether to build one of these plants, and where to build it, will be hampered without real data.

    Throughout the Asphalt Planning Application discussion, Councillors have stated that they want to base their decision on facts.

    Unfortunately, these facts and real data are in short supply. I believe (I may be wrong here) that the Council are responsible for measuring air quality but have never done so? In the permit and planning applications related to the Asphalt Plant we are presented only with theoretical data models. Given that the Applicant is supposed to operate many of these plants around the country, why can they not provide real data? Why are the theoretical models using wind data from Plymouth?

    Difficult decisions have to be made if we are to balance our economic and power needs with our environmental desires. However, these decisions should be based on informed debate using real data.

    The Council can make a difference here. They can start to monitor the air quality so that in the future we can understand the impact of these decisions.

  6. i would have thought, jon, that it was painfully obvious that i dont want them in anyones back yard but some people have such a chip they cant see past the first chance of retaliation

    • Chip? Retaliation? get over yourself.

      I was simply pointing out that they HAVE to be in someones back yard. So who’s do you suggest? Should the mainland continue to have our power generation plants in their back yard?

      Nimbyism is selfish. As you say yourself, not in your back yard, but you have no idea where. Well they have to go somewhere.

  7. Tanja Rebel

    19.Nov.2012 7:28am

    To Jon: The plants do not have to be in anyone’s backyard if we find good alternatives. Decentralisation of energy production is indeed a good idea and the sooner we do it the better: Put solar panels on every (well-insulated!) new-built house and provide generous subsidies for already existing houses (apart from listed buildings, we need to find alternatives there). These plants cost money to build, lets put the money into this instead.

    The Solar Energy Centre has already been decided for, so tidal is on its way and – shipping lanes or not – it will have a place in the scheme of things. Finally, off-shore wind is on the cards too so that is a third alternative. Apart from that, I have suggested energy conservation in the form of insulation, less street lighting, less commercial lighting, more and better energy education (do we give our pupils this?) and the promotion of an overall ethos that electricity is a sparse resource that should be used with utmost care. This is less trendy and less sexy, but could save us a whole lot of plants.

    Finally, there is already an asphalt plant on the island, further away from residential area’s than the suggested one, so we do not need another. Would save us energy too…

    • you really dont get it do you. its not about alternatives, subsidy, pollution. its about money. companies want to make money. if you want to protect the environment, think of a way to change companies minds on profit.

  8. downwind resident

    19.Nov.2012 12:58pm

    This letter is thought provoking.

    It will be interesting to see how the IW Council Planning Committee deals with the Planning Application (TCP/16533)for the Biomass fired Grain Store Dryer in the Council Chamber on 27 November 2012.

    They may like to consider the latest data released by the NHS which underwrite the concerns which Mr Cawley has so clearly expressed in his letter. (web -link http://www.rightcare.nhs.uk/index.php/atlas/respiratorydisease/)

    It is all very well for Jon to pontificate on the questions which beset every society not just our island but in our short lifetimes we can only hope to achieve sub- optimal solutions which are best for our own locality but not necessarily solve the world’s problems.

    I want to protect my family from foreign multi billion pound companies who simply have profit as their sole motivation , they are not interested in where they build their industrial plants or the effects on local communities. Please speak to them Jon.

  9. macthestrife

    19.Nov.2012 1:06pm

    Has anybody investigated the ground heat source such as that enjoyed in Southampton (I believe).
    I’m not an expert in fact I know nothing but somebody must know something.

  10. playingthenumbers

    19.Nov.2012 5:20pm

    Creating more air pollution in the Medina estuary, as my potty-mouthed gran would say, is when the sh%# gets real.

    The highest concentration of economic productivity/wealth is situated here, where much of the manufacturing base & technical expertise is found, it is where most off-island visitors go, it is home to two of the UK’s world class sailing events, but surprisingly few charity shops and some of its residents have secured tidy nest eggs judging by the property prices & the kind donation of fireworks by a local resident who entertains on Cowes week’s firework night. Cowes is, IMHO more of a gateway to the island than any other port.

    I find it interesting that much of the investment on the island, the ones with serious price tags are looking to ship into Cowes, using barges their resources: biomass/asphalt, Vestas too before their demise, bypassing the cross Solent ferries operations. Apart from distorting the incomes streams of the ferry companies. Revenue loss, which will be passed on to regular travellers, I would hope that regard is being given to this strategic planning by commercially minded companies, along with the existing & hoped for expansion of smaller scale, but high volume water traffic should be enough to cause planners to seriously think about any endangerment to the area.

    Moreover the island is spending a great deal of money on re-profiling our appeal to visitors, yes high value visitors with expectations to match. There is much to fear in the handfuls (bucketfuls) of dust (to borrow from TS Eliot’s Wasteland), which will spew out of the industrial plants proposed for the medina valley with very little in job creation to show for it.

    Energy in the age of scarcity is nothing new, it has happen before, but throwing away what little we have already isn’t going to help. The new taxes circulating around incinerators, plugging the disparity of landfill taxes (going up to £64 per ton for biodegrade material next year) are going to change the dynamic again. www. publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmenvaud/writev/328/m04.htm

    www. dailyecho.co.uk/news/district/southampton/9847819.MEP_questions_biomass_plant_s_green_credentials/

    www. nwemail.co.uk/news/barrow/centrica-pulls-the-plug-on-barrow-biomass-1.1008620?referrerPath=#

    The answer is painfully small scale, imaginative & costly. Community digesters on estates, new builds needing greater energy efficiency (producing their own power), tidal, wind, Lynn Bottom re-defined as a power station harvesting the buried gases, geo thermal, solar, just using less energy, improving public spaces to include free wifi, more remote working, car sharing, improving public transport, upgrading cycle routes.

    No, I’m not expecting the council or the government to provide it all, but they can pull the strings & provide the solid direction required for potential investors. Perhaps a local authority bond type product to kick start the investment whilst ensuring that we get our money back + a nice little reinvest-able earner too. If the available money in society is in the wrong places at the moment, this could be a way of making sure that those who can ill afford any more price hikes are cushioned as we additional sustainable energy capacity is brought on line.

  11. James Luke

    6.Jan.2013 10:59pm

    Lancaster University have just completed a study into the impact of biomass on air quality – worrying reading =>


Add comment