National renewable energy policy and local opposition in the UK: the failed development of a biomass electricity plant

BR Upreti*, D van der Horst

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Biomass energy developments in the UK are supported by central government but face considerable opposition from the public. The purpose of this study is to explore the causes and consequences of public opposition to biomass energy development in North Wiltshire where Ambient Energy Ltd. proposed the development of a 5 MWe wood gasification plant near the town of Cricklade. The case study was conducted through in-depth interviews, content analysis, person to person questionnaire survey, focus group discussion and participatory appraisal methods. Though biomass energy plants in general have fewer environmental impacts than plants which use fossil fuel, there could still be local impacts which give rise to concerns and local opposition to the development. The opposition could be partially explained by the fact that the general public is relatively unfamiliar with biomass energy. Public acceptance or rejection was mainly based on the public trust or mistrust. The case study demonstrates two distinctly rigid characteristics among the key stakeholders of biomass energy development. These are the 'not-in-my-back-yard' attitude from the public and the 'there-is-no-alternative' attitude of the developers. These rigid stances were widely contributing to the failure of the project to gain planning permission. The environmental justification of biomass energy at the national level is not always sufficient to convince the local residents. Winning public support to promote biomass energy requires an alternative approach of planning and action through interactive communication, public participation and collective learning among all the stakeholders. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-69
Number of pages9
JournalBiomass & Bioenergy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • biomass
  • risk communication
  • siting controversy
  • planning permission
  • public opposition
  • renewable energy


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