Farmer confident of victory in long-running energy plant battle

Artist's impression of the anaerobic digestion plant viewed from Riston Road
Artist's impression of the anaerobic digestion plant viewed from Riston Road
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The farmer behind plans for one of the biggest anaerobic digestion plants in the UK said he is “not bothered” if it is not approved this week, because he is convinced it will get the go-ahead at appeal.

John Bird is seeking planning permission from East Riding Council tomorrow for a controversial 5.45MW waste-to-energy plant close to the villages of Leven, Catwick and Long Riston in East Yorkshire.

Overhead view of anaerobic digestion plant site

Overhead view of anaerobic digestion plant site

The farmer and businessman said he will be seeking the costs of the appeal from the council - and that could cost the taxpayer between £100,000 and £150,000.

The proposals for the plant, which will run on chicken manure and straw, were rejected earlier this year by the council’s planning committee due to detrimental impact on visual amenity.

Six parish councils and more than 300 residents are objecting to the latest application for the plant, which will convert 40,000 tonnes of waste into a methane-rich biogas which will be injected into the National Grid, providing “green energy” for more than 12,000 homes.

Officers are recommending approval, with conditions.

Artist's impression show site of AD plant barely visible from the A1035

Artist's impression show site of AD plant barely visible from the A1035

Concerns have been raised about the smell from the delivery and storage of the feedstock, as well as the digestate by-product, which will be stored in lagoons, and the noise generated from the 24/7 operation.

Permission was granted in 2013 for a much smaller 500KW plant.

Mr Bird told The Yorkshire Post, plans for other AD plants had won at appeal “because it is part of Government policy going forward.” He said: “I am not bothered whether it goes through or not. I am in the appeal process any way. If we don’t get it through on Thursday I know for a fact we will get it through at appeal.”

The plant has been designed to be a sealed system and Mr Bird said: “If it smells we are losing money.”

He claimed there had been no complaints from neighbours of other AD plants in East Yorkshire, adding: “People don’t want nuclear, fracking, they don’t want coal - but we have to get power somewhere. If they don’t want wind turbines do they expect us to import all our power from abroad like we do now? We have to because we are not producing enough energy ourselves.”

However chairman of campaign group Communities Against Digester David Gillyon-Powell said the battle was “not over”.

At least 50 protestors are expected to turn up to demonstrate outside the meeting tomorrow at County Hall, Beverley.

Mr Gillyon-Powell said residents’ biggest concern was odour, as well as the impact of 50 extra vehicles a day, accessing the site from Leven bypass.

He said: “Communities Against Digester and the residents of the villages surrounding this abomination will continue to fight.

“No one has ever designed an AD plant to be smelly. They are designed to be non-smelly, but there’s a good number of documented instances around the country where they do smell. No one has designed one to explode or leak toxic slurry, but they have.”

According to trade association Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association said there are almost 600 plants, operating now across the UK, heating 1m homes.

ADBA Chief Executive Charlotte Morton said: “With the right support, AD could reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by four per cent and heat 30 per cent of the UK’s homes.

“AD has a particularly important role to play in supporting sustainable farming: through reducing emissions from and recycling farm wastes, farmers can restore nutrients and organic matter to soils through the production and use of biofertiliser. AD also provides on-site renewable heat and power and low-cost transport fuel for farm vehicles, reducing input costs.

“With CAP payments due to be phased out in the coming years, AD offers a vital opportunity for farmers to diversify their incomes.”