Sunday, October 05, 2014

Many UK Anaerobic Digester Planning Applications Still Public Relations Disaster

Objections are Understandable After UK AD Plant Leaks
New anaerobic digestion plant projects are being put forward for planning permission in increasing numbers in the UK, but many are facing heavy local opposition.

In fact it isn't unreasonable to label many of these planning applications as a public relations disaster. 

In this post we have highlighted just three biogas plant applications to provide a flavour for the public reactions received. In the first example, it is clear that the residents of the quiet market town of Whitchurch in Shropshire are very concerned about the possible negative impacts of this anaerobic digestion project.

1000 sign petition against Whitchurch anaerobic digester - shropshirestar.com

"1000 sign petition against Whitchurch anaerobic digester. Shropshirestar.com - One of the group's campaigners Sue Whitson said:
“We have been collecting signatures against the proposed digester for some weeks now and have had petitions in a number of business premises in the town as well as collecting signatures on-line."
http://news.google.com/news/url?sa=t&fd=R&ct2=uk&usg=AFQjCNFom0JICmkFJ3NMI0NYrbGShWVXHQ&clid=c3a7d30bb8a4878e06b80cf16b898331&ei=J6cxVOCnEuG9igaK-4DACg&url=http://www.shropshirestar.com/news/2014/09/11/1000-sign-petition-against-whitchurch-anaerobic-digester/
In the article it becomes clear that an incident at an AD Plant not far away, is on the minds of many of the people of Whitchurch. We reported upon that tank collapse and digestate leak here:
"So far, Whitchurch Town and Parish Councils have objected to the plans on the grounds of potential smell and negative environmental impacts. Many have noted the problems caused by another plant at Harper Adams University in Newport. The plant’s process tank collapsed earlier in the year following a small explosion, with slurry spilled onto the site."
That incident resulted in the smell of digestate being present for several days while a mopping-up operation took place, and it hard not to sympathize with the objectors about that, especially when the perpetrator was a university run plant where most would expect the very highest standards of maintenance to be used.
To find out more about "1000 sign petition against Whitchurch anaerobic digester - shropshirestar.com" and anaerobic digestion, click here

Planning experts always say that the secret to avoiding objections to any controversial project is early consultation, and spending time with the locals to make the case for the AD Plant and allay fears, if necessary modifying your proposals before the full application for planning permission is submitted. The next link suggests that this may be the approach being used in this case, but it is unclear whether the plannign application has yet been made:

More than 120 Wimblington people have their say on Fengrain ... - Wisbech Standard
"Wisbech Standard - GALLERY: More than 120 Wimblington people have their say on Fengrain ...Wisbech Standard - Public meeting about the Anaerobic digestion for Fengrain, Held at Wimblington parish hall. Left: Mick Knight resident and organiser of the meeting. Cllr David Connor, Chairman David Green,Speaker Charlie Graham-Cameron.Picture: Steve Williams.and more »" http://news.google.com/news/url?sa=t&fd=R&ct2=uk&usg=AFQjCNFQJEhjv3-8ekI8q9HBa9IuNSMTUQ&clid=c3a7d30bb8a4878e06b80cf16b898331&cid=52778602410076&ei=J6cxVOCnEuG9igaK-4DACg&url=http://www.wisbechstandard.co.uk/news/gallery_more_than_120_wimblington_people_have_their_say_on_fengrain_anaerobic_digester_plans_at_public_meeting_1_3759096
Clearly, the UK anaerobic digestion industry needs to do better with its public relations. That the public are against this AD Plant going ahead is evident from the following quotation from the article:
"Mr Barclay revealed the result of the contrasting petitions he put on his website for and against the digester – 151 voted against it, 11 people were in favour."
Finally, there are yet more biogas plant planning permission problems currently evident in the following example:
Developer appeals over green belt anaerobic digestion plant refusal - PlanningResource (subscription)
"Place North West - Developer appeals over green belt anaerobic digestion plant refusal. The developers behind a planned anaerobic digestion plant on a green belt site in Greater Manchester have appealed against a council's decision to turn down the application. Ramsbottom: developer to appeal energy plant refusal. The application, for the ...Controversial digestion plant developers lodge appeal against refusal. Bury Times: Appeal launched for Ramsbottom energy plant. Place North Westall 2 news articles »" http://news.google.com/news/url?sa=t&fd=R&ct2=uk&usg=AFQjCNHPd0gZeUrS6D4MNMRI33FKvIRH-w&clid=c3a7d30bb8a4878e06b80cf16b898331&cid=52778601344343&ei=J6cxVOCnEuG9igaK-4DACg&url=http://www.planningresource.co.uk/article/1310815/developer-appeals-green-belt-anaerobic-digestion-plant-refusal
However, it is clear that there will be many more AD Plants built in the near future throughout the UK if the following news, of a regulation that has been simplified, is anything to judge by:

Changes to UK's waste regulations favour anaerobic digestion industry - Renewable Energy Focus

"Changes to UK's waste regulations favour anaerobic digestion industry: Renewable Energy Focus - Biogas producers will no longer need to pay for permits or waste handling controls to use fruit and vegetable by-products in the anaerobic digestion (AD) process, the Environment Agency confirmed earlier this week.1 This resolves a long-standing ...and more »" http://news.google.com/news/url?sa=t&fd=R&ct2=uk&usg=AFQjCNGKDNO2Ub_ErMuL2Gv-G_2l-1KKDw&clid=c3a7d30bb8a4878e06b80cf16b898331&cid=52778607361466&ei=J6cxVOCnEuG9igaK-4DACg&url=http://www.renewableenergyfocus.com/view/39984/changes-to-uk-s-waste-regulations-favour-anaerobic-digestion-industry/
Taking the above reports into account does we suggest fully justify our view that many current UK Anaerobic Digester Planning Applications are still a Public Relations disaster. Does anyone have any suggestions as to how this situation can be improved?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Crouchland Biogas in West Sussex is a classic example , not so much a PR disaster (although it is that as well) . The main issue is the operators built it without the right planning permission and without consultation with the community. They now face a battle with West Sussex Council to persuade them it hasn't been built in a totally innapropriate location without safe and suitable access for HGV's . A proper approach to lawful planning, more diligent site selection and open consultation with the community may have helped them avoid the quagmire they are now in .I think it's these type of approaches that will give the Industry a bad name - the sooner the Industry realise this the sooner they may be able to act to improve the reputation for the future .

J Capper said...

Introduce a sensible minimum distance from homes for all AD plants. Incidents of odours and accidents of an explosive nature show these plants should not be located near where people live.

Sam Bright said...

I received an interesting email yesterday through the "Feedback" feature. The view which was given was that part of the problem with planning applications has been some well publicized biogas plants in the UK which have been badly constructed and/or poorly looked after.

If the UK biogas industry wants an easier life re: planning permission they need to find a way to banish the poor AD Plant designers/ contractors/ operators in danger of giving the technology a BAD name.

Sorry to be negative about it - but that is a view that is definately held by quite a number of people.