Developer to appeal against Keynsham biogas plant refusal

April 01 2022
Developer to appeal against Keynsham biogas plant refusal

THE developer behind plans for a biogas plant on the outskirts of Keynsham is to appeal against the refusal of planning permission.

Opponents of the scheme were delighted when Bath and North East Somerset councillors decided unanimously to reject the scheme for the former Queen Charlton Quarry site.

The planning committee heard claims that the development in Charlton Field Lane would create traffic chaos, lighting pollution, dangerous spores and smells.

Following the decision, Kerry Morgan, spokeswoman for Protect Our Keynsham Environment, said that although the campaign group welcomed the ruling, it was braced to keep fighting should the applicant appeal.

That has now happened, with Resourceful Energy Anaerobic Limited (REAL) notifying B&NES Council of the appeal process. The company states the appeal is likely to be submitted on Wednesday April 6.

REAL estimates the length of the public inquiry would be 12 days.

If the Planning Inspectorate agrees, a formal public planning inquiry is likely to be held later in the year.

POKE has advised the council it considers the development does not warrant consideration by a public inquiry, and that the informal hearing process, where evidence is discussed in front of an inspector and parties are not cross examined, is more appropriate.

In a statement, the campaign group said: “POKE is disappointed to hear that an appeal will be made but are confident that they can yet again present a strong case against the development, and that the appeal will not be successful.

“Now we must wait to learn more about the company’s grounds for appeal.

“Once we know more, we will work closely with our experts to give voice to local concerns at the appeal hearing.”

Hundreds of people opposed REAL’s bid to build an anaerobic digester plant capable of processing 92,000 tonnes of food waste and crops a year – nearly four times the size of a facility approved in 2014 that was not built in line with the planning permission – to generate up to 2.2 megawatts of energy.

Planning committee members agreed at their meeting on March 9 that the development was not needed and would not benefit the residents of Bath and North East Somerset.

Representing POKE, Rob Duff said the development was a “very different beast” to the scheme approved in 2014 and there was “absolutely no need” for it.

“I have been a town planner for over 30 years and have never come across unauthorised or proposed development as harmful to the green belt as that before you today.

“The site is simply unsuitable for the proposed development. Even if a need did exist, this is not the right site for it.”

REAL said in its application that more than 6,000 tonnes of CO2 would be saved every year, but planning officers said it had omitted the 81,000 tonnes of CO2 that would be emitted during the plant’s construction that would take 24 years to offset.

They said the 2.2-megawatt capacity would contribute two per cent to the council’s renewable energy target, which is currently facing a significant shortfall, but found the proposal “will not save more emissions from renewable energy generation than it creates from its annual operation alone.”

Defending the project, REAL director Phil Gerrard said the officer assessment contained significant inaccuracies, adding: “Members should consider how far off course the district is from its obligations on renewable energy and give significant weight to the contribution this project makes to [the council’s] renewable targets and our overall energy security.”

In a written statement to the meeting, Councillor Lisa O’Brien said: “We must be careful we don’t play into the hands of self-interested parties who seek to manipulate our impetus [to tackle the climate emergency] for their own financial gain.

“We have to tackle the climate emergency, but not at any price. The physical wellbeing of our residents and our local environment must come first.”

REAL’s plans propose using up to 25,000 of food waste, with the rest made up of purpose-grown crops such as maize.

Councillor Alastair Singleton said producing the required amount of maize would require up to 650 hectares of fertile farmland that could be used to produce food, a move he described as “bonkers”.

“This is not a green or environmentally sound project. It’s a damaging commercial enterprise, masquerading in diaphanous green clothing.”

The district’s food waste is already sent to an anaerobic digester in Avonmouth to generate electricity.

Councillor Eleanor Jackson said: “We sympathise with the people at Avonmouth who have to put up with terrible smells and disruption and heavy vehicles, but we don’t want our share of it here in Bath and North East Somerset.

“It may be nimbyism, but this is beautiful green belt and it should be kept for the residents to enjoy.”

Councillor Paul May added: “The renewable energy case has not been made and will do nothing for Bath and North East Somerset’s communities except create traffic chaos, lighting pollution, dangerous spores and smells.”

Councillor Alan Hale, ward member for Keynsham South, said: “These proposals would have been extremely damaging to the local area.

“This is a green-belt site that should be protected. The facility would have seen increased levels of HGV traffic on roads not built to accommodate it, as well as a big increase in noise and smell pollution.

“The applicant, of course, has a right to appeal the decision, but I am confident that the case against this proposal is strong.”

After the meeting, POKE spokeswoman Kerry Morgan said: “We would like to thank councillors on the planning committee for making the right decision today, and the planning case officer for their sterling work.

“We are grateful to our many supporters and everyone who has contributed to the campaign over the past two years.

“Our local environment is irreplaceable, and Keynsham and its surroundings must be safeguarded at all costs.”