Deal Farm Biogas developers Storengy put new planning application for Bressingham plant to South Norfolk Council
Campaigners have accused an energy developer of “manipulating the public” after they announced they would be reducing the size of a controversial biogas plant.
On Thursday, the developer behind Deal Farm Biogas in Bressingham said that they would be reducing the level of feedstock to what had initially been approved under a 2015 planning application.
Residents had been incensed after the developer used a loophole to retrospectively apply for permission to increase the proposed amount of feedstock processed at the plant every year, from 23,950 to 46,750 tonnes.
The decision to effectively double the capacity of the plant led to a protest campaign, with residents warning it would cause untold damage to the local environment and result in thousands of lorries travelling to and from the site every year.
In a statement, developer Storengy UK Ltd said it would be submitting a new application to quell the frustrations of residents.
“The decision to submit a new application seeking to reduce the feedstock amount has been carefully considered, as Deal Farm Biogas firmly supports the need to produce sustainable green gas to help reach net zero and enable home-grown, sustainable energy practices across the UK,” the statement read.
“The new application seeks to alleviate a number of concerns raised through the previous application and we hope that this commitment is positively received by the local community and statutory consultees.”
Storengy said it had undertaken an “extensive analysis” of the consultation responses to the retrospective application and said that the reduction in feedstock levels “will go some way to alleviating concerns”.
That does not appear to be the case, however.
Sue Butler, who lives in Villa Farm, a stone’s throw from the plant, was not swayed, and said it was a “another attempt to manipulate the public”.
She asked: “Why would we believe that Storengy will adhere to any reduction in feedstock volumes when they have already built a plant capable of taking in excess of 55,000 plus tonnes of feedstock?
“If they had said they would take down the original unauthorised development and return the land to its original condition, then apply using the normal planning process, we may have more faith in their statement.”
Development on the plant had been ordered to cease by South Norfolk Council last year after Storengy began building additional digester tanks capable of processing significantly more than 24,000 tonnes of feedstock.
With the reduction of the proposed feedstock amount, Storengy said that the only changes that remain from the 2015 permission are the addition of carbon capture, a small agricultural building for manure storage, a secondary containment bund for the digesters and lagoons for safe storage of digestate.
Campaigners said that these additions would be rendered unnecessary now that the proposed levels of digestate have been halved, leaving the plant financially unviable.
This has led to suspicions that the firm will simply apply to increase the feedstock volumes once the plant is complete, using the latest application to manoeuvre around the council and get construction over the line.
William Hudson, another campaigner who lives in Bressingham, added: “The reduction in feedstock will make the AD plant financially unviable.
“They will then try to increase the feedstock once the permission is obtained. This has happened elsewhere in the country.
“The owners of this project are only interested in extracting profit from tax payers.
“It is not environmentally or socially viable.”
Mr Hudson went on to echo one of the central concerns of residents: that the small, single-track roads in Bressingham could not accommodate what will likely be a significant increase in traffic.
“The single-track roads are not suitable for this volume of traffic,” added Mr Hudson.
“The roads were not suitable for the traffic for the last planning permission. Concentrating that amount of traffic at one delivery point will only create serious traffic issues.”
Storengy said that the latest application, if it is to be its last, would address these concerns.
The firm said: “By reducing the level of feedstock to 23,950 tonnes, Deal Farm Biogas has demonstrated its commitment to exploring all options to minimise the impact on the local road infrastructure.”
Further details on transport movements can be reviewed in full in a new transport statement.