'Absolute rubbish' - Summit discusses controversial waste plant
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
Around 150 people turned out to a summit in a south Norfolk village to discuss the latest version of a controversial waste project.
Residents, councillors and local government officials all gathered at Kenninghall Village Hall on Thursday, to voice their concerns about the proposed anaerobic digester (AD) plant and waste lagoons at Bressingham, near Diss.
The plant - which uses organic waste and crops to create biomethane that can be used to produce power - has already been partly built following a now-obsolete planning application from 2015.
The developers, Deal Farm Biogas (DFB), had put forward a planning application to complete the project, but withdrew the application in May after it received 363 objections and 61 letters of support.
The firm has now put forward a new set of plans, which it says will help address some of the concerns, such as the traffic levels on the area’s narrow country roads.
At the Thursday meeting, Amanda McMurray, chair of Bressingham Parish Council, said: “It’s still the same plant - they’ve removed one lagoon from the plan, they’ve removed an access point and they’re proposing that this plant, requiring nearly 50,000 tonnes of feedstock, is going to run on less than 24,000 tonnes of feedstock per year.
“That’s absolute rubbish - they can’t run the plant economically by reducing the feedstock by that extent.”
A statement from local Conservative MP Richard Bacon was also read out.
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He wrote: “It seems acutely unfair that by simply adjusting one obvious factor… the applicant is now allowed to resubmit a free full application and that as a result my constituents have to go through the whole process again – and this for a very big AD plant which has already been substantially constructed, without planning permission.
“I believe this takes ‘gaming of the planning process’ to a new level and will add to the administrative burdens and costs for South Norfolk Council tax payers.”
DFB supplied a statement too, saying “the decision to reduce the feedstock level was a difficult one” but that “the new application has genuinely sought to respond to the feedback received by the local community”.
The company also gave its “guarantee that there are no plans to submit a future application to increase the feedstock level".
It added that the project "remains an essential piece of infrastructure in the fight against climate change" and that it "will generate enough green gas to supply 3,250 homes every year".
The new plan is due to be decided by South Norfolk Council by September 22.
Intervention from potential next PM
Liz Truss MP, whose South West Norfolk constituency does not include the plant but does include Kenninghall, also provided a statement to be read out at the meeting.
In it, the Conservative leadership frontrunner said she “remains opposed” to the project - and that the changes made since the last application were “minimal”.
“Villages like Kenninghall, North Lopham and South Lopham function with rural roads unfit for excessive traffic flows or heavy vehicle movements," she wrote.
“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.”
While Ms Truss herself was unable to attend - as she was on Sky News being interviewed about her bid to become the country’s next prime minister - a representative from her office was at the meeting.