Plans for biogas plant near Evenley refused

14/12/2023

Evenley residents at the planning committee meeting. pic: Nadia Lincoln

The site would have used straw, maize and poultry manure from nearby farms to create biomethane

by Nadia Lincoln, Local Democracy Reporter

A major application for a biogas plant on nearly nine hectares of open countryside to the south of Brackley has been turned down by West Northamptonshire Council.   A total of 193 letters of objection were written to the council asking the committee to refuse the plans.

Residents of Evenley said they were worried that they wouldn’t be able to stop lorries from using country roads, the large facility being an eyesore to the rural environment, and the smells from the process of digesting manures to create the biogas.   Members of the public attended the planning meeting, on December 11, to make their case for refusing the new plant.

The anaerobic digestion unit was proposed to be built to the east of the A43, close to the Barleymow roundabout in between Evenley and Croughton – only 280m from the closest group of homes.   The plans have been put forward by Acorn Bioenergy Ltd, which recently received permission to build a similar plant in Courteenhall, east of the M1.

Jon Williams, a resident of Barley Mow who described the facility as “a stone’s throw from [his] front door”, said at the meeting: “This is not a small farm-based biodigester directly feeding a gas main- it is a monster-polluting factory in rolling, open countryside.”

Up to 90,000 tonnes of straw, maize and poultry manure from nearby farms would be used to create the biomethane, through a process of controlled decomposition, which would then be transported to the National Grid.   The applicant said that up to 28,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide would be saved per year.

Alister Veitch, a director at Acorn Bioenergy, said that the site was needed to help “ensure our energy security” and tackle the “climate emergency”.

“We’ve listened very carefully to feedback raised during the consultation process specifically regarding transport movements in the local area. The application has numerous environmental and economic benefits that will help accelerate UK decarbonisation, reduce our dependence upon costly foreign energy inputs and boost local economic growth.”

The plant would have been limited to 134 vehicle movements in and out of the facility a day and drivers would be told to not exit towards Croughton.   Residents were confused as to how the rules would be enforced and argued that lorries would just turn around at the A43 roundabout to cut through villages.

Sue Ricketts, an Evenley resident, said: “Picture this- rush hour, red light Croughton bound, queueing, stationary traffic, roundabout clogged with long, heavy vehicles. This development will significantly increase the risk of road traffic accidents and cause further fatalities.”

The smell from the plant was also raised as a “really serious issue” by Councillor Rebecca Bresse, ward member for Middleton Cheney. She said: “It permeates your home, it gets into your clothing. Odour is something that you cannot escape.”

Mr Veitch said he understood residents’ concerns about odour but assured the room that they wouldn’t be able to smell any of the process of decomposing from the site boundaries, though not all council members believed this. Steps were also proposed to try and reduce the visual impact of the large facility by planting trees around the site’s edge to act as screening.

The full effect of the screening, however, would not be fully seen for 15 years whilst the trees grew. Even then, the tops of the five digestor tank domes would peak above the treeline.

Cathy Ellis, chair of Evenley parish council said: “The impact on visual amenity here cannot be possibly mitigated enough to be made acceptable. It will be the dominant feature at the gateway to the county.

“There’s a landscaping plan but that suggests by year 15 it might offer some mitigation. That’s a whole generation.”

The biogas site was rejected by the planning committee on the grounds of traffic, odour and the visual impact on the countryside. Councillor Danielle Stone said: “I really welcome the application but it’s in completely the wrong location. I don’t understand how it can possibly be allowed so close to residents.”


Published: by Banbury FM Newsteam

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