Extinction Rebellion Cambridge protests gas pipeline running through Milton
Extinction Rebellion took to the streets of Milton this morning to demonstrate against the gas pipeline which is being laid through the High Street, heading north to power an £86m project to construct one of the world’s most advanced greenhouses at a site near Ely.
The greenhouse, funded by Greencoat Energy, will be located on a 52-acre site using LED lighting to accelerate growth, while warming the structure using heat pumps situated in a nearby reservoir. The power is supplied by a combined heat and power (CHP) plant, with waste heat from the CHP providing further warmth for the greenhouses.
“The gas-fired CHP plant’s carbon emissions would be transferred into the greenhouses,” says Greencoat, “raising the CO2 levels and further accelerating the growth of the plants, whilst capturing the carbon.”
However, Extinction Rebellion says just 1 per cent of the CO2 emissions would be absorbed by the cucumbers – and gas, a fossil fuel, should not be an approved source of power.
XR Cambridge says “planners and planning committees are turning a blind eye to the requirement in law to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2050, itself a dangerously late date”. And the climate action group questions the wisdom of installing the Milton pipeline at all because the government has announced that by 2025, developers will be banned from installing gas and oil boilers as part of the 2050 carbon net zero action plan.
“In 2021 we’re supposed to be phasing out all fossil fuels,” said an Extinction Rebellion protester speaking at the site of the construction work on Milton High Street.“Yet there’s been no estimate of the CO2 emissions of the gas turbine and its effect on the net zero target. There was no assessment and the pipeline did not require planning permission. Waterbeach council objected to the project unless it was powered by renewables but they were ignored.
“It’s an obvious piece of fossil fuel infrastructure and yet there’s been no checks on emissions, which makes you wonder about all the other planned projects in the area.”
The interruption to the construction work began at 8am and continued until just after 10am.
Under the banner ‘Climate Emergency – No Gas’ the group demonstrated, handed out leaflets, drummed and chanted – but didn’t block the road.
“We’re not stopping the traffic, we’re being motorist-friendly for once,” a protester said. Diggers were decorated with anti-fossil fuel messages and flags as the activists stood on machinery and drummed while the traffic passed. Further down the road, the contractors sat in their lorry.
“We’re not bothered,” they said as they waited for the campaigners to go away so that work could be resumed.
XR Cambridge is campaigning against the rapid development taking place in the county, including “the building of offices, unaffordable houses and unnecessary infrastructure in the Cambridge area and across the Ox-Cam ‘Arc of Doom’ – a plan to carry out intense and unsustainable development within the area between Oxford and Cambridge”.
An XR Cambridge spokesperson and Milton resident said: “You would think that a new gas pipeline in Milton and Waterbeach to supply gas heating to giant greenhouses over 52 acres in Stretham to grow cucumbers and tomatoes might have raised eyebrows and objections from East and South Cambridgeshire District Councils but they have supported it. The company behind the venture is pretending that the extra CO2 emissions are benign since they will be absorbed by an increase in cucumber and tomato yields. The council may have fallen for this conjuring trick since any CO2 absorbed can only create a short delay in the appearance of new greenhouse emissions.”
The spokesperson continued: “The increase in gas volume is a cynical dash for gas and profit on the part of the gas company to secure supply to as many households and businesses as possible before gas appliances are phased out in new building in 2025. They are not the only culprit. Houses are going up all over Cambridge with gas boilers and city councillors are staying mute. Yet they know that in Swaffham Prior alternatives are being demonstrated with the installation of ground sourced heat pumps.”
“We will do what we can to stop developments like this, again and again,” the spokesperson continued. “We call on our councils to wake up to the reality of the emergencies they have declared and join us. If it goes ahead the gas from this pipeline will fill their offices and homes with the stench of their hypocrisy.”
East Cambs District Council was contacted for comment.
Greencoat Energy responded, saying a statement – which will be published here – can be expected at any point.
Reports that the protest caused the traffic to pile up on the A10 this morning were wide of the mark – the traffic was being held up by other roadworks.