Exclusive by Alan Quick
PLANS for a biogas plant in Crediton, capable of supplying enough gas for 5,000 homes, which were submitted to Mid Devon District Council - have been withdrawn by the applicant - but new plans are expected to be submitted.
The plan, which was out for public consultation, included construction of an anaerobic digestion plant including vehicular access from Down End, provision of infrastruture works to support the plant including creating compensatory flood storage and re-grading of land and landscaping and all associated works and development on land at NGR 284938 100390, Commonmarsh Lane, Lords Meadow Industrial Estate, Crediton.
Detailed documents were submitted to the planning authority with the application, including documents about flood risk, odour impact, air quality assessment, landscape and visual impact, transport statement, design and impact statement, landscape and visual impact and conservation.
Details of the plan for the anaerobic digester plant were revealed on Tuesday, February 16, 2016, at a meeting of Crediton Town Council.
Those behind the energy plant plan, farmer and businessman Graham Kerslake, James Lloyd, CEO of Biowatt Group and Ed Heynes, director of Jillings Heynes Planning of Launceston and Exeter, presented their ideas and shared their visions and concept of the site to councillors so that they were aware of the plan before the planning application submission.
A total of 10 members of the public, a Mid Devon District Council planning officer and Mid Devon District Councillor Peter Heal attended to hear discussions for the plant on land adjoining the Lords Meadow Industrial Estate in Crediton.
Mr Lloyd said that the plan for an Anaerobic Digestion Plant would produce a biogas that could be cleaned on site and then fed directly into the main gas supply.
He said people should think of it as a natural form of solar energy, the sun’s energy rather than being put into growing either food for us or animals, but being used to grow plant matter, in the form of crops such as trees, grasses and maize.
He said products would be transported by tractor and trailer to the site from farms within a 12-mile area (further than that being uneconomic) and that this would be stored in large silage-clamp-type facilities on site.
Mr Lloyd said the five-plus acre site was at the far end of the industrial estate, with access via the Link Road, Commonmarsh Lane and at the bottom of Down End.
EDGE OF TOWN
“The location is great because it is on the edge of town so we have no need to have our vehicles pass through the town centre at all, so it avoids any dangerous traffic issues,” he said.
He added that a traffic plan would be put in place so that the town centre is avoided by vehicles travelling to and from the site. The meeting was told that some late evening harvesting traffic could take place at peak harvesting time but there was no intention to work through the night.
Mr Lloyd said the biogas product would be fed into the national grid: “Every hour, 365 days-a-year, seven-days-a-week and we will produce 490 cubic metres, which is enough to supply 5,000 homes.”
Farmyard manure, straw bedding used by animals, cereals by-products such as from processing rape or barley but definitely no food waste would be used, it would only be dealing with agricultural materials.
CONCERN ABOUT ODOUR EMISSIONS
At the meeting in February last year, Councillor Nick Way (Crediton Rural) said there were quite a lot of houses nearby and the councils have had quite a few complaints about the smell from the sewage works (adjoining the proposed site) in the past.
He said: “It is important there are no emission odours.”
Traffic issues were raised and concerns about the site area being prone to flooding were raised by Mid Devon District Councillor Peter Heal.
Mr Heynes said that consultants would be dealing with this matter, adding that these issues would be part of the planning permission.
Mr Lloyd said developers have to go through a very formal and rigorous process and the Gas Board has said there is space (for their gas).
“They (the Gas Board) are very happy to work with us. The UK is ‘miles short’ of its gas target,” he said.
Mr Kerslake confirmed that some screening would be installed. He said that when approved, the plant could be operational within a year.
Charles Mossman, Sustainable Crediton’s Energy Group Co-ordinator, told the “Courier”: “In principle I think the construction of the biogas plant is a sound idea as the applicant has stated that it will continuously produce renewable gas capable of heating 5,000 homes.
“In one stroke this plant could make Crediton carbon neutral in respect of the heating of homes on the gas grid.
“However the applicant must provide satisfactory answers to the issues, brought up at a public meeting, of odour, noise, transport of slurry and feedstock to the plant, and the type and quantity of crop feedstock to be mixed with the farm wastes.
“Should the planning application be approved with conditions then I would expect those conditions to be strictly applied and closely monitored.”
The public was being asked to make comments directly to the planning authority.
A number of comments, both for and against the plan, can be viewed on the Mid Devon District Council website: www.middevon.gov.uk .
One of those who commented, Roland Smith from Nymet Rowland, objected, stating: “This anaerobic digester will not only affect the residents of Crediton but all those who live in the surrounding countryside who will be adversely inconvenienced by the movement of feedstock to the AD and digestate from the plant to farms within a 10-mile radius.
“Conversion of land to produce about 35,000 tonnes of energy crops per year will make a huge impact on the availability of local produce.
“A recent Government review states: ‘It is Government policy that the primary purpose of agricultural land should be for growing food.’
“The flood risk: it is proposed to be built on the River Creedy floodplain, which is an area which gets regularly flooded and on which only essential infrastructure should be built (national government and local planning policy) - this proposal is not essential infrastructure.
“The supplied transport statement is nonsense. It assumes that the traffic movements, many of which will be slow moving agricultural vehicles, will replace what currently goes to and from Downes Home Farm with only a marginal increase.
“This isn’t the case.
“All the traffic moving feedstock to the AD and taking digestive and CO2 from the site will have to pass through Lords Meadow Industrial Estate.
“The best estimate is that there will be an average of 50 traffic movements per day - that’s more than one every 10 minutes based on an eight-hour working day and will be up to double that at peak seasons.
“The Transport Statement conveniently avoids discussing any traffic to and from the west which would have to travel either through Crediton High Street or the ‘rat run’ of Higher Road.
“This application should be refused planning permission on the above grounds.”
Simon Trafford, Mid Devon District Council planning officer, wrote to Mr Heynes on April 11 and stated: “I had a conversation with Graham Kerslake on Friday and he confirmed that the application as referred above is to be withdrawn and that as agent you would confirm as such in writing, so that the LPA (Local Planning Authority) have a written record.
“He also mentioned that he is currently evaluating an alternative location for the project with the vicinity of the above site but outside of the flood plain.
“I suggested to him that I would be happy to meet with him and his team to discuss matters in relation to progressing a revised project through the decision making process.
“In summary if you can provide written confirmation with a short email to confirm that your client has withdrawn the application that would be helpful for the LPA’s records.
“In the meantime I will instruct my colleagues to register the application as withdrawn on the system as of Friday, April 7, which is when it was confirmed verbally”.
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