Monday, 10 November 2014

Update on development of biogas plant at Fraddon

My article in last week’s Cornish Guardian covered the issues facing the people of Higher Fraddon because of the construction of a biogas plant and the redevelopment of a pig farm. It was as follows:

In my time as a Cornwall Councillor, I have been involved with a wide range of planning matters in my local area and across Cornwall as a whole. Sadly, many of my recent experiences have left me extremely jaded.

One debacle is still unfolding at Higher Fraddon, where an AD (anaerobic digestion) or biogas plant is being developed next to a pig farm. The plant will create gas from pig slurry mixed with other organic materials.

There is a great deal of anger in the area, as shown by the fact that more than 120 residents crammed into Kingsley Village, last Thursday, for a public meeting that I had organised and which was attended by senior representatives of Cornwall Council, as well as spokespeople for both the company developing the biogas plant and the actual pig farm.

Some editions of the Cornish Guardian have covered the dispute in recent weeks, but I wanted to further outline some aspects of what has happened in this column.

The original planning permission for the biogas plant was granted in early 2009 by the old County Council. I was not involved in the deliberations, (as I was not a county councillor at the time), but I do recall some of the local discussions.

Concerns were raised about the poor road access through Higher Fraddon to the pig farm, but it was claimed that the plant would take all the pig slurry from farm – which would no longer be spread on local fields – reducing odour, while the number of vehicle movements would be reduced.

Work started on the construction of the biogas plant in the summer, while the redevelopment of the pig farm – now in a separate ownership – was also commenced (but without planning permission). The biogas plant even decided to dig up the road to lay a gas pipe along the road – instead of through a field as previously agreed.

And as a consequence of three different lots of construction traffic, local residents have had a nightmare of a summer – with traffic, noise, dust and flies amongst the problems.

The original consent restricted the number of vehicle movements (to the pig farm and plant, once operational) to no more than 51 “two-way” traffic movements each week. But it has recently transpired that Cornwall Council had agreed a “non-material amendment” (NMA) in 2013, on which I, the Parish Council and local residents had not been consulted.

The NMA basically allowed some of the vehicles to be larger. For example, the original conditions set out there would be five 44-tonne lorries each week, but the NMA allowed this to be increased to 13.

The original application also stated that 6,150 tonnes of bakery and brewery waste would be brought in to mix with the slurry, but the developer is now stating that he intends to bring in 38,700 tonnes of feedstock, a six-fold increase – much of it specially grown maize silage. 

I consider all this to be extremely “material” and I am challenging how such changes were allowed to be made.

I also understand that the developer wishes to again modify the nature of his agreed 51 vehicle movements, by further increasing the number of 40-tonne or 44-tonne lorries – something which fills me and local residents with great trepidation.

Residents are extremely worried about the devastating impact of such large vehicles on the road past their properties – which everyone considers to be a “lane” – and we are now campaigning for an alternative access off the A30 running past Fraddon, in order to protect the amenity of local residents.

And earlier this year, the developer asked the Council to agree a further NMA which reduced the size of the three large tanks on the site. But when they were completed in October, it became apparent that the tanks were taller than agreed and had not been constructed in compliance with the agreed plans.

I could go on and on, but it would take many thousands of words to fully detail what has been happening at Higher Fraddon.

But I trust that what I have written this week does help to explain why I feel very despairing at the moment and why many residents of St Enoder Parish feel let down by Cornwall Council and the developers working on the pig farm and biogas plant at Higher Fraddon.

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