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7m digester plant approved for beauty spot
Published 10/02/14



A BUSINESSMAN has won planning permission for a manure-fuelled gas generator near Ipsden.

David Bermingham says the anaerobic digestion plant at Icknield Farm, about two miles north of Woodcote, could be built by the end of the year.

The 7m scheme was unanimously approved by South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee on Wednesday last week.

Opponents argued it was inappropriate development in the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty and would generate unpleasant smells.

They also feared it would create traffic problems with lorries delivering slurry and maize and collecting the mixture once it was processed.


But councillors said the impact of these would be minimal and the scheme’s environmental benefits would outweigh them.

The district council’s planning officers visited the site before the decision was made and recommended approval.

The plan was also supported by the Chilterns Conservation Board, which did not believe it posed a threat to the countryside.

Mr Bermingham, 50, from Goring, plans to build two digesters on the five-acre site, each about 90 feet wide and about 30 ft tall with a domed roof.

These would be filled with pig manure and crop residue, which would ferment to produce methane for the national gas grid.

The plant would produce enough gas to fuel about 3,000 homes a year, which is almost the combined population of Goring and South Stoke.

Mr Bermingham would sell the gas to national suppliers under the Government’s new Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.

He hopes to strike a deal with the supplier to give Goring and South Stoke residents a discount on their gas bills.

Once it is processed, the slurry mixture forms an odourless substance called digestate which would be sold as fertiliser.

Mr Bermingham told the planning committee: “As a country we import about 50 per of our gas and export about two million tonnes of cereal crops every year.

“It is absolute economic madness; we have a full-blown energy crisis and I believe we have a responsibility at a local level to do something about it.

“We are not talking about an industrial operation but an on-farm agricultural enterprise and that is an important distinction to make.

“If we want renewable gas for the villages, this is the best place for it by a distance.

“It is not out of place [and] if you are serious about renewable energy this is the right project in the right place and at the right time.”

Mr Bermingham said the plant equipment was likely to last at least 30 or 40 years before it needed replacing.

If the facility goes out of business or is disused for more than a year, he will be obliged to return it to its original condition.

Pearl Slatter, district councillor for Goring ward, told the committee: “This is an extremely innovative conception and design before you this evening.

“Do you want to send South Oxfordshire District Council into the 21st century? I think you might but that decision lies in your hands.”

Twenty-five people, mostly from Ipsden and Woodcote, wrote letters of objection to the district council while 10 sent letters of support.

South Stoke and Woodcote parish councils offered no strong views on the application.

Cllr Robin Peirce, chairman of Woodcote Parish Council, said members had reviewed the application and felt some concerns were “non-issues”.

But Christopher Quinton, of Greenmore in Woodcote, said: “The site in question has beautiful and sweeping views across an area of outstanding natural beauty.

“It is likely that these views have been unchanged for hundreds of years and yet, by a simple vote, it could be scarred by an industrial installation.

“Imagine explaining to your children or grandchildren that your vote counted in preserving this beautiful area for posterity.”

Cllr Ron Baker, chairman of Ipsden Parish Council, said the application amounted to “vandalising” the countryside.

Cllr Baker, who holds a chemistry degree, said the process would generate corrosive hydrogen sulphide, which would lead to gas leaks.

Guy Hildred, who owns Icknield Farm and will run the plant in partnership with Mr Bermingham, said the digestate would harmlessly absorb the substance.

Cllr Elizabeth Gillespie, a member of the planning committee, said: “I think this is a no-brainer.

“This [kind of project] is where we are all going and we should be utilising our farm waste in a far more sensible way.

“There will be a little more traffic but I can’t see that it outweighs the good this application will bring.”

Cllr Margaret Turner said: “Our country’s gas production falls year after year so we need renewable energy projects.

“I think the government and this council are responsible for taking these forward.”

Cllr Philip Cross said: “There was a lot of objection when Agrivert applied to build an anaerobic digestion plant at Benson but that has proven to be a success.”

Cllr Robert Simister said: “The site is very agricultural and there are many existing buildings that would fit in with these digesters.

“This is not something that’s out of the ordinary and I think we should approve it.”

After the meeting, Mr Bermingham said: “I think the council realised the adverse effects are substantially outweighed by the benefits of this proposal.

“I’m delighted and hope that when the plant is up and running all the objections will prove to have been groundless.”

Because the site is on a quarry that was filled in during the Sixties, the Environment Agency says Mr Bermingham must investigate the pollution risk before building can start.

As long as the ground is not heavily contaminated, Mr Bermingham said the plant could be up and running before Christmas.



ENDS

A BUSINESSMAN has won planning permission for a manure-fuelled gas generator near Ipsden.

David Bermingham says the anaerobic digestion plant at Icknield Farm, about two miles north of Woodcote, could be built by the end of the year.

The 7 million scheme was unanimously approved by South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee last week.

Opponents argued it was inappropriate development in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and would generate unpleasant smells.

They also claimed it would create traffic problems with lorries delivering slurry and maize and collecting the mixture once it has been processed.

The committee followed a recommendation from council planning officers who visited the site to approve the application, saying the impact would be minimal and the scheme’s environmental benefits would outweigh the negatives.

The plans were also supported by the Chilterns Conservation Board. Mr Bermingham, 50, from Goring, will build two digesters on the five-acre site, each about 90ft wide and about 30ft tall with a domed roof. These will be filled with pig manure and crop residue, which will ferment to produce methane for the national gas grid.

The plant should produce enough gas to fuel about 3,000 homes a year and Mr Bermingham will sell it to national suppliers under the Government’s new Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.

He hopes to strike a deal with the supplier to give Goring and South Stoke residents a discount on their gas bills.

Once it is processed, the slurry mixture forms an odourless substance called digestate which will be sold as fertiliser.

Mr Bermingham told the committee: “As a country, we import about 50 per cent of our gas and export about two million tonnes of cereal crops every year.

“It is absolute economic madness. We have a full-blown energy crisis and I believe we have a responsibility at a local level to do something about it. We are not talking about an industrial operation but an on-farm agricultural enterprise and that is an important distinction to make.

“If we want renewable gas for the villages, this is the best place for it by a distance. The plant is not out of place and if you are serious about renewable energy this is the right project in the right place and at the right time.”

Mr Bermingham said the equipment was likely to last at least 30 or 40 years. If the plan goes out of business or is disused for more than a year, he will be obliged to return the land to its original condition.

Pearl Slatter, district councillor for Goring ward, told her fellow councillors: “This is an extremely innovative concept and design.”

Twenty-five people, mostly from Ipsden and Woodcote, wrote letters of objection to the council while 10 sent letters of support. South Stoke and Woodcote parish councils offered no strong views on the application.

Ron Baker, chairman of Ipsden Parish Council, said building the plant in the area known locally as “Ipsden prairie” would be “vandalising” the countryside.

Published 10/02/14

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