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South Norfolk Council order work on Deal Farm Biogas in Bressingham to cease as they await new application

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Campaigners have taken a huge step forward in their battle to block the construction of a biogas plant after planning authorities ordered developers to cease working with immediate effect.

Villagers have been in firm opposition to the development of Deal Farm Biogas – an anaerobic digestion plant in Kenninghall Road in Breesingham that will process waste and turn it into fertiliser – arguing that the plant would cause untold damage to the local environment and will mean thousands of lorries travelling to and from the site every year.

Back in 2015, South Norfolk Council granted permission for biogas firm Biowatt to build one digester tank and two storage tanks on the site.

Villagers gathered at Bressingham Village Hall last month to voice their opposition to Deal Farm biogas plant.
Villagers gathered at Bressingham Village Hall last month to voice their opposition to Deal Farm biogas plant.

Campaigners claim the developer has veered some way from the original plans and begun building two digester tanks – with both bigger than the one it was granted permission for.

As a result, Biowatt had asked the council to grant retrospective planning permission on the new development, under Section 73 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, which allows applicants to ask an authority to remove or alter some of the pre-agreed planning conditions.

Last week, however, the district council ordered Biowatt to withdraw the Section 73 and submit a fresh application for the entire site before continuing to build on it, which Biowatt has agreed to do.

In a letter addressed to Biowatt, the council appeared to echo the claims of residents – that the plant had become unrecognisable from what the developer was initially granted permission for.

The letter, which was published on South Norfolk Council’s planning portal, said: “It appears that the development constructed on site has a number of material differences to the development approved in 2015.

“This brings into question whether the original development was, in fact, lawfully implemented.

“In addition, part of the current development falls outside the original site boundaries.

“Furthermore, it is our view that in light of the council believing that the original development may not have been lawfully implemented and, therefore, there is no longer an extant permission for an anaerobic digestion facility on the site, that work should cease while this matter is fully considered through a full planning application.”

The statement from the council will be music to the ears of residents, who have claimed that trucks travelling to and from the site as it is developed are destroying roads – amongst a host of other concerns.

William Hudson was one of the organisers behind the protests against the plant. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2021.
William Hudson was one of the organisers behind the protests against the plant. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2021.

William Hudson, who has been one of the leading figures in the battle to block the development, said: “This is excellent news for residents.

“South Norfolk Council is fully aware of all the implications of this illegal development.

“As well as the impact on the landscape, the council is very aware of the damage that operational vehicle movements will cause to the single track roads and to the communities that the traffic will have to drive through to get to the plant.

“We cannot believe the arrogant way that Biowatt and the associated companies have behaved, taking no notice of planning law and the feelings of the residents of the five villages that will be affected.

“We thank the council for approaching this illegal development with the seriousness that it deserves.”

Following the order to stop work, Biowatt withdrew its application, stating its intention to resubmit a revised application following further discussions with planning officers.

In a statement, the firm said: “We are looking forward to progressing further discussions with South Norfolk Council as we look to prepare a revised planning application.

“The AD plant at Deal Farm will take in agricultural waste from local farmers, while making an important contribution to the UK’s target of being net zero by 2050.

“As we prepare a revised application for submission, we will be keeping South Norfolk Council and local residents informed of our next steps.”

Late last month, nearly 200 people took to South Norfolk Council’s planning portal to lodge their objections to the plant in the public comments section.

Opponents had warned that transporting the additional feedstock needed for two digester tanks could see more than 5,000 lorries passing through the streets of Bressingham and its surrounding villages every year.

Other concerns raised by residents during a village hall meeting earlier that month included pollution from methane leakage, caused by the anaerobic digestion process, and noise pollution.

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