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Liz Truss puts voices opposition to Deal Farm Biogas

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PM hopeful Liz Truss took a break from her Tory leadership bid this week to voice her opposition to Deal Farm Biogas.

During a meeting at Kenninghall Village Hall last week – which was attended by one of the MP’s representatives, Ian Sherwood – a statement was read out in which she urged South Norfolk Council (SNC) to reject the latest planning application for the controversial anaerobic digester plant.

Back in June, developer Storengy announced it would be reducing the amount of feedstock travelling to Deal Farm, withdrawing its initial planning application and replacing it with a revised one.

Deal Farm AD Plant, in Bressingham. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2022.
Deal Farm AD Plant, in Bressingham. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2022.

The Bressingham plant, which falls just outside of Truss’ South West Norfolk constituency, has slowly drawn the attention of people in surrounding towns and villages – concerned about the number of vehicles travelling to and from the site. Diss Town Mayor Eric Taylor was also at the meeting, which took place on Thursday, August 4.

Truss’ statement, read out to the 70-odd people in attendance, said: “Having read through the new application, as well as speaking to district and county councillors, I also remain opposed.

"Villages like Kenninghall, North Lopham, and South Lopham function with rural roads unfit for excessive traffic flows or heavy vehicle movements.

“The plant is a hazard to cyclists, dog walkers, holidaymakers, horse riders, runners, and general pedestrians wanting to enjoy Norfolk's rural beauty.

"Not to mention local road users who will face constant disruption in their day to day lives from heavy transport on single track roads.

“Suggestions that more signs, a reporting system, and more pull ins can offset these concerns fails to seriously acknowledge the innate infrastructural problems surrounding this plant.

"The original planning in 2015 was also not followed, and the most recent application was withdrawn.

“It therefore seems unfair that a resubmission can be allowed for a new application which has made minimal changes.

“When scrutinised, these minimal changes are also inadequate.

“Reducing feedstock allowance is going to be very time consuming and costly to oversee, whilst the plant's size will remain as it is and so encouraging potential development or output creep later on.

“In conclusion, I ask that South Norfolk Council refuse this application.”

In response to Truss' comments, Deal Farm looked to dispel "misinformation" about the plant.

A spokesperson insisted that the plant was the same size as what was approved in the initial 2015 planning application, as is the proposed level of feedstock.

They added that concerns about the increase in vehicle movements were misplaced – referring to the Transport Statement submitted as part of the latest application.

The spokesperson said: "This reduction is a direct result of the plant processing the farm wastes and organics created at the farm onsite, rather than disposing of it at another facility, which would require further transport movements.

"If the plant does become operational, the gas and digestate created will be piped and pumped directly to where it is used – without the need for vehicles to transfer it.

"Deal Farm has always produced and stored a large volume of farm yard manures, straw and crops on site – operating the plant will reduce the impact this has on the local area, while producing renewable energy and renewable fertilisers."

A spokesperson for the council was also in attendance in Kenninghall, who stated that the planning authorities had found Deal Farm's attempts to submit revised applications “frustrating.”

“We recognise this has been a flagrant breach of the planning system,” said SNC representative Phil Courtier.

"The challenge is that it is not illegal – that frustrates us significantly but it’s just a matter of fact."

The application is set to go to South Norfolk Planning committee next month.

Mr Courtier reassured attendants: "I will give you a guarantee that we will not go easy on [the applicants] –but it will be a long and drawn out process.

"I don’t think the planning committee will be in any doubt about local feeling when considering this application."

In response to Mr Courtier's claims that Deal Farm had "breached the system", Deal Farm insisted that they had followed the guidance set out by SNC throughout.

A spokesperson said: "[We have] sought advice from the Planning Authority and complied with that advice at all times.

"The Planning Authority has been pre-consulted at all times, and officers have provided written advice throughout.”

Thursday's meeting concluded with a Q&A, in which one attendant made an impassioned speech, which was met with a chorus of applause.

"This should have been stopped months ago – it’s absolutely outrageous," he said.

"These poor people have had their lives ruined because of this."

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