Residents in opposition to development of biogas plant

Residents of a south Norfolk village are hoping to block the development of a biogas plant. Around 70 residents filled Bressingham Village Hall this week to oppose the completion of Deal Farm Biogas – an anaerobic digestion plant in Kenninghall Road that will process waste and turn it into fertiliser.

They argued that the plant will cause untold damage to the local environment and will mean thousands of lorries travelling to and from the site every year.

Villagers arriving at Bressingham Village Hall to discuss the development of the Deal Farm biogas plant. (52036456) Villagers arriving at Bressingham Village Hall to discuss the development of the Deal Farm biogas plant. (52036456)

Crucially, they argued it is at odds with what they were promised in 2015, when South Norfolk Council granted permission for biogas firm Biowatt to build one digester tank and two storage tanks on the site. At the time, Bressingham and Fersfield Parish Council objected to the proposals, citing “serious concerns about the suitability of local roads” around the site, as well environmental and safety issues.

With development under way, 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.

South Norfolk Councillor James Easter has been one of the leading opponents to the plant.
pPicture by Mecha Morton. South Norfolk Councillor James Easter has been one of the leading opponents to the plant. Picture by Mecha Morton.

As a result, South Norfolk Council is being asked 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.

Karl Trayner, chairman of Bressingham and Fersfield Parish Council, suggested that if their concerns fall on deaf ears, residents may have to take matters into their own hands. “If something needs doing, direct action counts,” he said. “It may come down to stopping those trucks.” At Wednesday’s meeting, residents and parish councillors warned that the revised plan will require far greater supplies of feedstock than originally planned in the 2015 application.

Opponents warned that transporting the additional feedstock needed for two digester tanks could see more than 5,000 lorries passing through Bressingham’s streets every year. District councillor James Easter, who represents the Bressingham and Burston ward, said: “Those roads are not going to take 5,500 truck movements per year. “This is an industrial plant that has only been put there to make profits for [energy firm] Eon.”

Other concerns raised during the meeting included pollution from methane leakage, caused by the anaerobic digestion process, and noise pollution, while several attendees described the decision by Biowatt to work outside of the boundaries agreed in its initial application as illegal. Cllr Easter added: “In effect, they got planning permission for a bungalow, but they didn’t lay a brick because they want a six-bedroom mansion.” James Lloyd, CEO of Biowatt, defended the revised project and insisted it would not result in an uptick of lorries visiting the plant.

“We are aware of, and sympathetic to, the concerns of local residents relating to the construction of the anaerobic digestion plant near Bressingham,” he said. “In short, we cannot run more vehicles or process more material than the original permission allows because the project is not asking to change those limits. “We’ve been in close consultation with the concerned residents throughout, including organising a meeting in August in order for them to explain their concerns to us personally and allow us to make changes.

“While we understand there will always be concerns and fears during the planning and construction of new facilities, the project is committed to being a good neighbour and having a positive involvement with the local community.”

People have until October 15 to comment on the application.

To do so, click here.