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Controversial hydrogen project will still go ahead despite opposition

Hybont Protestors (Pic: Lewis Smith LDR)

PROPOSALS for the Corporate Joint Committee of Cardiff Capital Region to purchase land in the Brynmenyn and Bryncethin area will still go ahead despite a ‘call in’ from council members.

The decision which was first approved by the council on March 12, was called in by scrutiny members who wanted to send the decision back to cabinet for further consideration in the coming weeks.

The plans would see two areas described as “surplus land” transferred over to the CJC for use as part of the proposed Hybont Green Hydrogen Project, which has been put forward by energy developers Marubeni Europower Ltd.

If given the go-ahead at a planning committee meeting in April of 2024, they will include a hydrogen production facility with electrolysers that can generate hydrogen from electrical power by splitting water, along with hydrogen storage and a hydrogen refuelling station on the land.

These plans have led to a major backlash from some residents and councillors, with protests held outside the council’s offices in 2023, because of what they said was a lack of clarity, and safety concerns with the facility’s proximity to local housing in the village of Bryncethin.

Bridgend Council had pulled out of the project last year due to financial restrictions, though developers at Marubeni said they would still go ahead with the application, with a report showing that the Cardiff Capital Region was now interested in becoming a “key partner”.

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Officers and members who had agreed to transfer the site to the Cardiff Capital Region said it would be sold on the basis that planning permission was granted for the project, potentially fetching a price of over £1 million.

It was also noted that a protocol was in place, meaning if the project was not given planning permission to go ahead then the land would automatically be sold back to the local authority.

However, opposition members such as Cllr Martin Williams said they called this decision in because they wanted to make sure that the public interest had been properly taken in to account during the process, as well as gaining clarity on why the two areas of land were considered to be surplus.

Others also wanted to see if other options had been considered for the land outside of the proposed Hybont hydrogen project – though officers and cabinet members said the agreement to the transfer was in line with best practice adding that the land had been owned by the council for many years.

Councillor Hywel Williams said: “We used this protocol because it keeps land in public ownership, and indeed that’s best practice – it is in fact what Welsh Government advise us to do.”

After a lengthy scrutiny session, members voted on whether or not to send this decision back to cabinet, with five voting in favour of sending it back and six voting against. It means despite the close vote and frustrations shown from many in attendance, the move will not go back to cabinet with the transfer of land now able to take effect immediately.

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