Anti anaerobic digester protesters were out in force for a planning inspector’s site visit to Fengrain at Wimblington

Fengrain demonstration

Fengrain demonstration - Credit: Archant

More than 60 placard waving protesters greeted planning inspector Nick Palmer when he arrived today (Tuesday) for a visit to the site for a proposed anaerobic digester at Wimblington.

House near Fengrain proposed development

House near Fengrain proposed development - Credit: Archant

Planning rules mean Mr Palmer was unable to speak to protesters or hear their views on a renewed attempt by farming co-operative Fengrain to build the plant next to its site in Hook Lane.

However, the gathered campaigners, who are facing a third sally by Fengrain to gain permission for the plant, left him in little doubt of their views.

Signs waved in front of him highlighted the objections which include noise and smell pollution, an intrusion on the countryside and traffic concerns.

Mr Palmer was met by Paul Randle, Fengrain’s business development director, and the company’s solicitor Peter Brady, but was kept waiting for nearly 40 minutes by Fenland District Council’s planning department, whose representative arrived 37 minutes late.

Fengrain demonstration

Fengrain demonstration - Credit: Archant

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A council spokesman later explained the delay and said: “We’re very sorry for the delay and for the inconvenience it caused. Unfortunately, the letter giving details of the inspector’s site visit got mislaid, so we were unaware of the visit until we had a phone call this morning. We’re putting measures in place to prevent any recurrence.”

Leading the campaigners were the two Fenland councillors for the ward, Councillor David Connor and Councillor Maureen Davis and Arthur Lamb, deputy chairman of Wimblington Against the Anaerboic Digester (WAAD).

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Mr Lamb said: “We’re not allowed to speak to the inspector, but we are here to let him know the strength of feeling against the digester has not changed.

“We are disappointed that he has agreed to Fengrain’s request to have the appeal heard by written representations as that cuts out the local residents from showing their opposition at a hearing. There were 120 people at the last hearing at Fenland Hall.”

Fengrain demonstration

Fengrain demonstration - Credit: Archant

He said the current application involves changes to the positioning of the plant on the site, but it remains within 60 metres of the nearest home.

“All they have done is turn the plant location 90 degrees on the site, but that will not stop the noise or the smell,” said Mr lamb.

However, Mr Randle argued the change was ‘significant’.

He said: “ It is the job of the inspector to make the decision. Everything that can be said has been said - the inspector is very thorough.

“The new plan is far better than the original as it puts all the work gear behind existing buildings out of sight. We moved the silos right back from the boundary - the plan is a lot different.

“It is as far away from the boundaries as it can be on the existing industrial site. Very few people will actually see it.”

But seeing the plant is not the only concern for the protesters who included among them Jackie and Richard Parker, whose property is around 200 metres from the site.

Their worry is the extra noise the plant will generate.

“It is already noisy, 24 hours a day, especially Data Shredders. We moved into our home 20 years ago. We knew this was earmarked as a light industrial site, but we weren’t expecting what we have got now.

“The noise the digester will make should not be taken into consideration on its own, the inspector should put all the noise from the various businesses together,” said Mrs Parker.

Resident Mick Knight said: “We have had this three times, we have kept fighting, we’re very disappointed in Fenland District Council turning up so late.”

His view was echoed by mum of three Rachel Ryder who said: “The council’s planning officer was 37 minutes late for a cause that officers are fighting. The officers recommended approval but the councillors rejected that and went against the officers’ recommendation. The fact the council’s representative was 37 minutes late makes you question just how invested they are in fighting the appeal.”

Mrs Ryder added: “What we want to know is will Fengrain respect the inspector’s decision if he throws out the appeal again, or will we be faced with yet another application.

“Technically they should not be able to apply again for three years, because they have made two applications already. But I have heard today that Fengrain are saying this is still their first application, which is really worrying.”

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