Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Manure-fuelled digester plan divides opinion

PLANS for a manure-fuelled gas generator near Ipsden have divided opinion.

PLANS for a manure-fuelled gas generator near Ipsden have divided opinion.

Councillors are opposed to the £7 million scheme but green campaigners have welcomed a pledge to reduce gas bills for residents of Goring and South Stoke.

Businessman David Bermingham has applied to South Oxfordshire District Council for planning permission for two anaerobic digesters at Icknield Farm in Icknield Road, about two miles south-west of Ipsden.

Each would be almost 200ft wide and 36ft tall and would be used to ferment pig slurry and crop residue, producing methane and carbon dioxide.

The former would be extracted and sold to national gas suppliers under the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme. The plant would generate enough gas to fuel about 3,000 homes.

Ipsden Parish Council has objected to the application and claimed it was not consulted.

Chairman Ronald Baker said the plant would be a potential danger to villagers.

He said: “It is inevitable that when the digesters are opened to remove the solid digestate and reload the maize, noxious, even toxic, gas will be released. This will be carried by the prevailing wind to Ipsden.

“Methane and hydrogen produced in the process are both potentially explosive but there is no mention in the submission of safety precautions and procedures.

“The visual impact of this large industrial unit in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty will be far greater than indicated in the application, which should be rejected.”

Councillor Mark Gray, who represents Benson and Cholsey on Oxfordshire County Council, said: “I am told that the village is already subject to unpleasantness from pig manure in warm weather and the attendant flies. To further increase the discomfort of local people seems, to say the least, unfair.

“I know that people in Preston Crowmarsh complain of smells coming from the Agrivert plant. It stops them enjoying their daily lives.

“As a supporter of green and alternative energies, I am sorry to be opposing this development but it seems wrong to put the burden of such a large plant on to a small community.”

Mr Bermingham, from Goring, says the raw slurry would be stored in septic tanks and loaded using underground pipes so would not be exposed.

A small amount of odour would be released when the digesters were opened but it would be undetectable. The digesters would have an emergency flare which would burn off any excess gas if the pressure reached unsafe levels.

Mr Bermingham said: “It is very disappointing that Ipsden Parish Council has refused to engage with us and did not ask us to attend the meeting at which they discussed the project. We even offered to arrange a visit to a working plant but they seemingly have no interest in understanding how these things work, despite there being a much larger facility just up the road at Preston Crowmarsh.

“Their objections demonstrate a total misunderstanding of anaerobic digestion in general and our project in particular.”

Mr Bermingham said he had invited the council to a public exhibition about his plans but he was not invited to address councillors.

Trevor Coombs, of the Goring and Streatley Sustainability Group, said: “This proposal is a very good thing... the fact that it creates ‘green gas’ for 3,000 homes in the winter seems to make it a sensible project to undertake.”

Jeremy Capo-Bianco, of the Goring and Streatley Amenity Association, said: “The site of the proposed plant is in a valley with only a few neighbours and the least obtrusive you could find.”

The district council’s decision is expected in February.

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