Huge turnout as Bressingham villagers stage protest against Deal Farm Biogas
A protest saw around 70 villagers mobilise in front of Deal Farm Biogas this week to voice their opposition to the controversial plant.
Late last year, South Norfolk Council ordered work to cease on the anaerobic digester (AD) plant, following complaints that the project had deviated from the conditions of its original 2015 planning permission.
The decision was welcomed by residents and campaign groups, who have warned that the plant would cause untold damage to the local environment and will result in thousands of lorries travelling to and from the site every year.
Earlier this month, however, Storengy – the firm behind the project – submitted a new planning application with a number of changes, which it pledged would address the concerns of villagers.
Campaigners say they will not be satisfied until the plant is shut down completely. Chants of “close it down” could be heard on Wednesday as protesters unfurled a banner reading ‘Stop Deal Farm AD Plant’.
Sue Butler, who owns Villa Farm, which is within a stone’s throw of the plant, said the huge turnout showed how public outrage towards the plant was beginning to grow.
“I can’t express to you how great it feels,” she said, remarking on the unexpected number of people who came out on a cold and windy afternoon.
“When we started this back in April, up until September when people actually started to listen, we felt very alone.
“We’ve had some really dark hours about this because nobody was listening – nobody in authority wanted to know.
“Having this sort of collaboration, with everybody now coming together in the community, is phenomenal.”
Amongst the large crowd were several members of South Norfolk Green Party.
Tom Williamson, a member of the party who lives in Clements Close, Scole, said: “This is a demonstration to show people are against what is basically an industrial facility being built in the middle of the countryside.
“It’s been a good turnout, we’ve had over 70 people here, and we’re looking to getting the right publicity to oppose something which is completely out of order.”
He added that the traffic issues caused by the plant would have implications for people even further afield than in Bressingham and Fersfield.
He said: “The implications for local people is there’s going to be a massive increase in traffic, not only through Bressingham but also in Diss.
“There’s going to be up to 8,000 vehicles per year travelling through the area.
“If you look at the roads, they’re only about three metres wide.
“We’re going to have 40-tonne trucks going through the town of Diss.
“It’s going to upset their lifestyle, and not only that, they’re also going to be dangerous.”
Last week, Lodge Lane in Bressingham was closed for hours after a gas lorry slid into a ditch. While the lorry was not travelling to Deal Farm, Mr Williamson said that the incident highlighted how the roads in the village could not manage an increase in traffic.
“It tells us the road network cannot cope with what’s being proposed,” he said.
“The road network is going to deteriorate even further. At the end of the day, it’s going to be the local ratepayers who are actually paying for the benefit of a large multi-national company.
“The company that is going to be doing the damage should also be contributing to replace the roads, but, in the first instance, it just shouldn’t be built.”
Supporters of AD plants, which produce fuels from materials like maize or manure, say they are environmentally-friendly because they generate energy from waste materials.
In response to the protest, a spokesman for Deal Farm Biogas said they were taking measures to listen to residents.
The developer came under criticism after failing to send a representative to a public meeting held at Bressingham Village Hall earlier this month.
In response to the latest protests, the spokesman said:“Since the recent increase in public interest surrounding the proposed Deal Farm Biogas facility, the project team has taken steps to ensure the community has all the necessary information about the new application.
“This has included developing a project website, creating a dedicated email inbox for individuals to contact the team, providing a hotline number, and engaging fully with parish councillors and the local MP.
“Subsequently, we have sought to respond to specific questions raised by the community at the recent public meeting.”