Millbrook Power is a Drax Group project to build and operate a rapid response gas-fired power station on land located on the Rookery South Pit, near the villages of Stewartby, Millbrook and Marston Moretaine in Bedfordshire.
The project received planning consent on 13 March 2019. If built, Millbrook Power Station could run up to a maximum of 2,250 hours in any given year, provided that the five-year rolling average does not exceed 1,500 hours. It will provide back-up to other sources of electricity, including weather-dependent renewable and low carbon technologies such as wind turbines and solar farms.
About Millbrook Power
The power generation plant would be situated within Rookery South Pit and would cover an area of approximately 20 acres. The power station would enter commercial operation and could be operational subject to capacity market contracts in the early-to-mid 2020s. Millbrook Power plant will have the capacity to generate up to 299 MW, providing enough instant electricity to power 150,000 households. It will operate as a ‘peaking plant’ generating electricity at times when the country’s need is greatest.
Detailed technical and environmental studies were carried out in 2013/14. A series of public exhibitions were held in 2014 to share details of the project and receive feedback from people living in the local area. In addition, the project team have met local councillors a number of times to discuss plans and have provided local residents in the area with updates on the project and the planning process. Improvements to aspects of the project were made as a result of local dialogue.
Under the ownership of Drax Group, the Millbrook Power project recommenced in December 2016. During the course of 2017, further studies were undertaken and a 35-day period of statutory public consultation was held in the early part of the 2017 summer.
On 23 October 2017, an application for a Development Consent Order (DCO) was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate. Between December 2017 and January 2018 further consultation was carried out on the application documents and members of the public and statutory consultees were invited to make a representation about the project and register to participate in the examination process.
A public examination of the application commenced on 13 March 2018 and concluded on 13 September and involved many participants including the local councils. The independent Examining Authority that led the examination made its recommendation to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on 13 December 2018.
An environmental permit under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 was granted on 25 January 2019.
The proposed project site in Rookery South Pit is located approximately 2 km to the east of the A421 which connects directly to Junction 13 of the M1 Motorway, approximately 6 km to the south west of the Project Site.
The Rookery (grid ref. 501373, 240734) and therefore the power plant site, was previously worked for clay used in the nearby Stewartby Brickworks until its closure in 2008. To the north of the Rookery some of the buildings associated with the brickworks remain standing, including the chimneys which are now listed.
The main elements of the proposed Project would comprise:
- A new Open Cycle Gas Turbine (OCGT) power peaking plant, also known as a Simple Cycle Gas Turbine, designed to provide up to 299 Megawatts (MW) of electricity. The plant could run up to a maximum of 2,250 hours in any given year, provided that the five-year rolling average does not exceed 1,500 hours. Following consultation in 2014/15 and additional technical work, the plant will now incorporate a single gas turbine generator with one exhaust gas flue stack, a temporary laydown area required during construction and an access road from Green Lane, near Stewartby.
- A new electrical connection (including underground cables) to export electricity from the plant to the National Grid Electricity Transmission System. This element incorporates a new circuit connection to the existing 400 kilovolt (kV) overhead transmission line and a new substation. The decision to place the connection underground rather than as an overhead line with transmission towers was made in 2014 and was shared with the local community; it was an outcome of local consultation and informed by additional technical studies.
- A new underground gas pipeline connection to bring natural gas to the plant from the Gas National Transmission System, which is located approximately 1.8 km from the project site. This element incorporates an above ground installation (AGI) located off-site at the south-eastern end of the pipeline.
- In June 2019 an application was submitted to make changes to the Millbrook Gas Fired Generating Station Order, 2019, this application was submitted as work alongside National Grid identified that a gas insulated switchgear (GIS) substation would be more efficient, economical and smaller than the original proposal of an air insulated switchgear (AIG). This change did not fundamentally alter the proposals and Drax was granted a Non-Material Change order by the Secretary of State in April 2020 to amend the plans. As well as being more economical and efficient, the GIS substation will also result in a much smaller footprint. Moving to a GIS system means we are able to reduce the length of the substation by 100 metres and the width by 90 metres, allowing for additional planting of vegetation and removing the need for a temporary transmission tower.
Given its capacity size of 299 MW, the project required a Development Consent Order (DCO) from the Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.
Planning & consultation
Public consultation has been an integral part of the planning process and has been an important element of Millbrook Power’s work since the project was first announced in 2014. The project’s consultations with the local community, local politicians, local groups and other relevant organisations, have met all legal requirements and have been based on a range of advice and guidance.
There have been several opportunities to consider and comment on the project.
Phase 1 Consultation (2014)
Non-Statutory Consultation started in June 2014 and included three exhibitions held locally to introduce the project to people living in close proximity to it. This was followed by a period of Statutory Consultation in October/November 2014, during which public exhibitions were held in Marston Moretaine, Stewartby, Ampthill and Lidlington, along with meetings with local parish councils and councillors from Central Bedfordshire Council and Bedford Borough Council.
Phase 2 Consultation (2017)
A second period of Statutory Consultation was carried out between 29 May and 2 July 2017. Public exhibitions were again held in Marston Moretaine, Stewartby, Ampthill and Lidlington to update people living in close proximity to the project and introduce it to anyone who did not participate in the 2014 consultation. During Phase 2 Consultation meetings were held with various local representatives, statutory consultees and other stakeholders – these meetings constituted both statutory and non-statutory consultation.
Statements of Community Consultation
The project’s 2014 SoCC was agreed with Central Bedfordshire Council and Bedford Borough Council, and a revised Statement of Community Consultation for 2017 was also agreed with the local councils.
Both the 2014 and 2017 SoCCs were published in the local press and made available via this website. The SoCC and other information about the project was also made available at the councils’ offices and local libraries during both phases of consultation.
Millbrook Power is a power generation project that can help support the UK’s future energy security and ensure that the country meets its low carbon emission targets. All efforts will be made to ensure minimum impact on the environment during its construction and operation.
The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the proposed development was submitted as part of the suite of documents that accompanied the application for development consent. The EIA examined likely significant environmental effects of the Millbrook Power project. Issues such as noise, air emissions, ecology, visual impact, archaeology and transport have been considered. Under the EIA Regulations, a revised preliminary environmental information report was made available for the 2017 consultation process.
Feedback from the 2014 and 2017 consultations helped inform the detailed EIA for the Millbrook Power project. The EIA was a central part of the application for development consent and will inform the Planning Inspectorate’s recommendation and the Secretary of State’s decision.
The Millbrook Power project can bring a range of benefits to the area during both construction and operation. Construction will take around two years and will provide job opportunities for up to 150 skilled and semi-skilled people.
This investment will also support indirect jobs in the local community in areas such as facility maintenance and other support services.
A detailed socio-economic impact study has been submitted as part of our planning application.
Local businesses and individuals with an interest in working at the plant either during its construction or operation that would like to be kept informed of developments with the project are invited to contact Millbrook Power via [email protected]
13 March 2019 - New rapid response gas power station approved in Bedfordshire
4 March 2019 - Environmental Permit issued for Millbrook Power
14 March 2018 - Planning Inspector’s examination process starts
15 February 2018 - Date announced for Preliminary Meeting for examination of Millbrook Power Development Consent Order application
28 November 2017 - Millbrook Power’s application for Development Consent Order accepted for examination
23 October 2017 - Application for Development Consent Order submitted to the Planning Inspectorate
7 June 2017 - New images of Millbrook Power project available as part of statutory consultation
14 June 2017 - Millbrook Power shares its plans with local communities
18 May 2017 - Millbrook Power seeks local views about power station project
19 December 2016 - Drax Power Chief Executive: Why Britain needs rapid-response gas
6 December 2016 - Drax Group Chief Executive: Our plans to build flexible power stations
6 December 2016 - Drax acquires Millbrook Power
8 January 2016 - Millbrook Power Project Update
30 March 2015 - Submission of Millbrook Power DCO Application Deferred
9 February 2015 - Millbrook Power shares final plans with local councils
24 November 2014 - Statutory Consultation Period Ends
8 April 2020 - Application for a non-material change to the Millbrook Gas Fired Generating Station Order 2019
13 March 2019 - Development consent granted by Secretary of State
November 2017 - Millbrook Power application for Development Consent
November 2017 - Notice under Section 56 Planning Act 2008
June 2017 – Public exhibition photomontages – view point 14
June 2017 – Public exhibition photomontages – view point 15
June 2017 – Public exhibition photomontages – view point 11
June 2017 – Public exhibition photomontages – view point 6
June 2017 – Public exhibition photomontages – view point 4
June 2017 – Public exhibition photomontages – view point 3
June 2017 – Public exhibition photomontages – view point map
June 2017 – Public exhibition pop ups
June 2017 – Public exhibition stand
June 2017 – Illustrative height compared to local landmarks (PNG image)
June 2017 – Illustrative height compared to local landmarks (PDF document)
May 2017 – Statement of Community Consultation
May 2017 – S47 Consultation Plan
May 2017 – Preliminary Environmental Information Report (2017) – Appendices Volume K – Historic Environment
May 2017 – Preliminary Environmental Information Report (2017) – Appendices Volume J – Traffic and Transport
May 2017 – Preliminary Environmental Information Report (2017) – Appendices Volume I – Landscape and Visual Impact
May 2017 – Preliminary Environmental Information Report (2017) – Appendices Volume H – Ground Conditions
May 2017 – Preliminary Environmental Information Report (2017) – Appendices Volume G – Flood Risk Assessment
May 2017 – Preliminary Environmental Information Report (2017) – Appendices Volume F – Ecology
May 2017 – Preliminary Environmental Information Report (2017) – Appendices Volume E – Noise
May 2017 – Preliminary Environmental Information Report (2017) – Appendices Volume D – Air Quality
May 2017 – Preliminary Environmental Information Report (2017) – Appendices Volume C – Legislation and Policy Context
May 2017 – Preliminary Environmental Information Report (2017) – Appendices Volume B – Scoping Opinion and Response
May 2017 – Preliminary Environmental Information Report (2017) – Appendices Volume A – Project Glossary
May 2017 – Preliminary Environmental Information Report (2017) – Figures
May 2017 – Preliminary Environmental Information Report (PEIR) (2017)
May 2017 – Preliminary Environmental Information Report (2017) – Non-Technical Summary
May 2017 – Project Overview Document
February 2015 – Power Station Project Update
October 2014 – Preliminary Environmental Information Report (PEIR) Figures
October 2014 – Preliminary Environmental Information Report (PEIR)
October 2014 – Preliminary Environmental Information Report (PEIR) Non-Technical Summary
October 2014 – Preliminary Environmental Information Report (PEIR) Technical Appendices
September 2014 – Statement of Community Consultation
September 2014 – S47 Consultation Plan
July 2014 – The Planning Inspectorate: Scoping Opinion for Proposed Millbrook Power Project
June 2014 – Millbrook Scoping Report
Frequently asked questions
Site location & environment
Q1. Why do you want to build at Rookery South Pit?
A1. After various studies across the country over a four-year period, we consider Rookery South Pit to be an ideal site. It has three key advantages:
– Close proximity to the national gas and electricity distribution networks
– Location in National Grid’s strategic area for new electricity generation
– Rookery South Pit is a brownfield site allocated for development by Central Bedfordshire Council
Q2. What steps will you take to preserve the local environment?
A2. Every effort will be made to minimise the project’s impact on the local environment, both during its construction and operation. Its design and the steps to mitigate its impacts, such as screening and landscaping, has formed a major part of the consultation and planning process.
We have chosen to reduce the number of exhaust gas flue stacks from five to one, and we will underground the electrical connection so the project’s visual impact is reduced; this is also helped by siting the project in a pit.
Q3. Where will the gas pipeline and electricity connections be routed?
A3. The proposed routes are underground, a decision taken as a result of Millbrook Power’s preliminary environmental impact assessment and consultation with the local community and key stakeholders.
Further information is available in the 2014 Preliminary Environmental Information Report (PEIR) or PEIR Non-Technical Summary (NTS) here.
Q4. Is this part of the Covanta energy from waste development?
A4. Millbrook Power has no connection with Covanta. The Covanta project is to build an Energy from Waste power project on land next to our site. That project was consented in 2010 and some preliminary works on their site have started. Our project’s environmental and technical assessments have taken the Covanta project into account and provide a clear assessment of the cumulative likely significant environmental effects of both projects.
Q5. What about the “cumulative impact” of having both power projects?
A5. The cumulative impact assessment of both projects has been fully addressed in Millbrook Power’s application for development consent.
Q6. How big/noisy will the plant be?
A6. The site for the power plant and electricity substation within Rookery South Pit covers an area of approximately 20 acres or 8 hectares. There will be a single stack in the power plant. The stack height will be up to 35m from the bottom of the pit.
No significant effect from noise is expected. The noise produced during operation of the power plant will be strictly limited by the requirements of the Development Consent Order which will be enforced by the local authority and limits set by the Environment Agency (EA).
Noise modelling was undertaken to ascertain the current background noise levels and the typical noise levels from a gas fired plant have been modelled on top to determine the likely impacts. The results of these assessments were included in the EIA.
Emissions to air will be strictly monitored and regulated by the Environment Agency, through an Environmental Permit which is required for the plant’s operation. Photomontages of the power plant’s site from various viewpoints were shown at the exhibitions that were held in the summer of 2017 and were included in the DCO submission.
Q7. Will there be an increase in road traffic?
A7. There will be HGV traffic during the two-year construction phase but it would be routed to minimise congestion, noise and dirt in the local area. Once operational, there will be a negligible increase in traffic movements.
Q8. Is it going to smell?
A8. The combustion of natural gas in a power station does not produce any noticeable odour.
Q9. Will there be any emissions from the power station?
A9. A plume consisting mainly of water vapour may be visible from the stack of the power station but only under certain atmospheric conditions (cold and dry with high pressure); this is not ‘smoke’. The emissions from the stack will be strictly limited by the Environment Agency (EA) as part of an operational environmental permit, and will not have any significant effect on people or the environment.
The stack will also emit some carbon dioxide (CO2). However, Millbrook Power Station will only be permitted to run up to a maximum of 2,250 hours in any given year, provided that the five-year rolling average does not exceed 1,500 hours. This would be at times when lower carbon forms of power generation are not available due to intermittency or high demand, such as when there is not enough wind, sun, at peak times or on very cold days.
Q10. Has Millbrook Power Ltd built a gas-fired power station elsewhere?
A10. Millbrook Power Ltd is the name of the project company. It is owned by Drax Group.
Drax is enabling a zero carbon, lower cost energy future. Its 2,600-strong staff operate across three principal areas of activity – electricity generation, electricity sales to business customers and compressed wood pellet production.
Drax owns and operates a portfolio of flexible, low carbon and renewable electricity generation assets across Britain. The assets include the UK’s largest power station, based at Selby, North Yorkshire, which supplies six percent of the country’s electricity needs.
Having converted two thirds of Drax Power Station to use sustainable biomass instead of coal it has become the UK’s biggest renewable power generator and the largest decarbonisation project in Europe.
Its pumped storage, hydro and energy from waste assets in Scotland include Cruachan Power Station – a flexible pumped storage facility within the hollowed-out mountain Ben Cruachan.
Drax owns and operates four gas power stations in England and as well as Millbrook Power Station, is developing three other rapid-response gas power plant projects in England and Wales, two of which have already secured planning consent and are moving forward to the engineering and construction phase.
For more information visit www.drax.com
Q11. Will the project affect the Bedford Brickworks project? What about construction disruption?
The Bedford Brickworks project was announced by property company Cloud Wing in 2019 and aims to create up to 1,000 new homes near Stewartby. The project will not affect Millbrook Power. There will be HGV traffic during Millbrook’s two-year construction phase but it would be routed to minimise effects on the local area. Construction transport plans for the Bedford Brickworks project have not yet been made available although it would be expected that any environmental assessment that accompanies their planning application would consider Millbrook’s requirements.
Q12.There are a number of new rail proposals in the local area including the proposed East-West rail link and local line electrification works. Will the project affect these proposals?
Two existing rail lines run either side of Rookery Pit, the site of the Millbrook Power project. Neither of these lines or other local works will be affected by the project.
Q1. Why do we need new gas-fired power stations?
A1. Gas-fired power generation is affordable, reliable and flexible. New gas power projects are acknowledged by the Government as being essential to a lower-carbon economy, as an alternative to coal, and the construction and operation of rapid-response Open Cycle Gas Turbine (OCGT) plants by Drax Group are part of a strategy to support an electricity system that has an increasing amount of less flexible, low carbon and renewable energy technologies. Many ageing coal, gas and nuclear power stations are closing down and new thermal power generation capacity is needed to help the country retain its energy security.
Gas peaking plants such as Millbrook Power are designed specifically to provide essential back-up power generation to intermittent renewable technologies such as wind turbines and solar farms.
New gas generation is part of a transition from more polluting fossil fuels of the past such as diesel, oil and coal and to a low carbon economy driven by renewables, storage, demand side response and other low carbon technologies.
Q2. Why are you building gas power stations – using fossil fuels isn’t going to help us meet our climate change obligations?
A2. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in its 2018 report that 85% of power will come from renewables by 2050. The other 15% will therefore need to come from flexible, reliable technologies, like gas.
The UK government has recognised the urgent need for new capacity for energy security and carbon reduction objectives and acknowledges reliance on fossil fuels must decrease, but they will still be needed during the transition to a lower carbon economy.
Q3. How often will the power station operate? Will you ever consider extending the operating hours in the future?
A2. We plan to use Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGTs) to plug the gaps that intermittency creates – essentially flicking the switch on and off at very short notice – from cold to full power in just 30 minutes. We anticipate they would run up to a maximum of 2,250 hours in any given year, provided that the five-year rolling average does not exceed 1,500 hours. This would only be at times when the electricity system is under stress. The maximum operational limit for Millbrook Power plant will 2,250 hours per year but modelling by Drax Group assumes much lower annual usage per annum.
Through supporting more intermittent renewables, Millbrook Power plant will also help to enable more coal-fired power stations off the system.
Q4. When will you start building the power station at Rookery Pit South and when will the power station be operational?
At earliest work will get underway early next year, once we have secured a capacity market agreement which will underpin our investment.
The project will take about two years to build after receipt of a contract at a future Capacity Market auction.
Q5. What about safety of the power project?
A4. Gas-fired power stations in this country have an excellent safety record, and we do not consider there to be any issues of concern with our site and the neighbouring energy facilities. Drax Power Station, Millbrook Power owner’s existing power plant has a better-than-average safety record among other coal, gas and biomass power stations.
Q6. Why an Open Cycle rather than a Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT)?
A5. Whilst an OCGTs are less efficient than CCGTs, there are a number of reasons as to why they remain the preferred technology choice for peaking plant.
- Flexibility – OCGTs have start-up and shut-down times of less than 30 minutes where other power generation technologies take much longer become fully operational at maximum capacity from cold. Peaking plant such as OCGTs are required to come online very quickly in response to sudden changes in demand or outages of other plant. They are also suited to flexing their output up and down in a matter of seconds, which helps National Grid ensure the smooth running of the energy grid. There is also no limit to the number of start/stops a well-maintained OCGT can achieve over its lifetime.
- Environmental Impact – visual/land take. OCGT plants are more compact so reducing the land take required and they have shorter stacks because exhaust gasses are hotter. These factors reduce the environmental impact of such plant.
- Environmental Impact – water consumption. OCGTs do not consume material amounts of water in normal operation. This is important in areas where water is scarce.
- Financial – losses in efficiency are far outweighed by the much cheaper build cost of OCGT when compared to CCGT and also because of the low number of hours they will be operational (a maximum of 2,250 hours out of the 8,760 hours in any given year).
Planning & consultation
Q1. Who is the planning authority?
A1. As the project will generate more than 50 MW of energy, and given its importance to the country’s energy security, a Development Consent Order (DCO) application under the Planning Act 2008 was submitted to the National Infrastructure team of the Planning Inspectorate in October 2017.
The Planning Inspectorate considered the DCO application and recommended that the Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy approve the project. He did so in March 2019.
Central Bedfordshire and Bedford Borough Councils have been key consultees in the planning and consultation process, along with the parish councils in the vicinity and other local organisations.
Q2. Could the local authorities and local people participate in the examination process?
A2. Yes, organisations and/or individuals were given the opportunity to register a representation and interest in the examination process between 9 December 2017 and 19 January 2018 giving notice of any interest in, or objection to, the application. All representations were made public by the Planning Inspectorate on 23 January 2018.
Q3. Were local people consulted before the submission of the Application?
A3. Yes, public consultation has been an integral part of the planning process. Local people were consulted in 2014 and 2017 before the Development Consent Order (DCO) application was submitted. Their views have helped shape the main elements of the project.
Q4. What about the environmental impact of the power station?
A4. An Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) was undertaken in 2014 to assess the likely significant environmental effects of the Millbrook Power project and further work on this was carried out during 2017. The EIA process considered a range of issues including noise, air emissions, ecology, visual impact, heritage/archaeology and transport. The Environment Agency, the statutory body that regulates industrial emissions in England, granted an Environmental Permit to Millbrook Power in January 2019.
Local economic benefit
Q1. How will the power station benefit the local area?
A1. The power station can bring a range of benefits to the area during both the construction and operational phases.
Construction will take around two years and will provide job opportunities for approximately 150 skilled and semi-skilled people. In addition, the facility will make a major contribution to local business rates and will be an active participant in the local community. A detailed socio-economic impact study has been submitted as part of the planning application (via the Environmental Statement).
Q2. How will the scheme benefit the area?
A2. The significance of long-term investment and the benefits of the construction phase (for example, opportunities for local sub-contractors). New power projects and power station conversions in the UK have been shown to have a significant socio-economic footprint. We hope that our scheme will provide a catalyst for other investments within the area, and as an investor and employer we would expect to play an active part in the region in line with Drax’s longstanding commitment to community engagement and being a responsible operator. We will liaise with Central Bedfordshire Council on ways to bring wider social and environmental benefits to the surrounding area. In 2017, Drax Group and its supply chain supported 2,500 jobs in the East of England and generated £273.2m for the region’s economy.