Councillors pay visit to site of planned controversial anaerobic digester as home owner stands firm against proposal

Fenland district council planning committee, Site visit. Picture: Steve Williams.

Fenland district council planning committee, Site visit. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

Plans for a controversial anaerobic digester (AD) at Wimblington could get the go-ahead with officers recommending approval despite massive local opposition.

Fenland district council planning committee, Site visit. Picture: Steve Williams.

Fenland district council planning committee, Site visit. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

And sitting at the centre of it all is an elderly woman, whose property is so close to the site the applicants - FenGrain - have made several attempts to buy her out.

The application is set to be discussed at next Wednesday’s planning committee after Councillor Pop Jolley requested it goes before members because of concerns regarding smell, increased traffic and noise pollution and also because of the level of support. Members of the planning committee paid a site visit to FenGrain this morning (Wednesday) to see it for themselves.

FenGrain want to build the plant together with three silage clamps, earth bunding and a lagoon on 3.5 hectares of land adjoining the business’s premises in Hook Lane.

The plans have sparked huge opposition with of 131 separate letters of objections and a public meeting is being held on Thursday to galvanise the opposition further ahead of next week’s meeting.

Fenland district council planning committee, Site visit. Picture: Steve Williams.

Fenland district council planning committee, Site visit. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant


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Local MP Steve Barclay is due to be among those attending and he is supporting opponents’ claims the site is not suitable for such a development.

A report to the Planning Committee said objections raised included: the likely impact on neighbouring residents from noise and odour, pollution, highway safety, proximity to homes, and loss of agricultural land.

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While advocates in favour - there have been 20 letters of support - believe it will benefit the local farming community, will cut transportation of sugar beet, provide a sustainable energy source and help the viability of FenGrain.

But it could all be for nothing if the woman’s home proves to be the key to the development and she sticks to her guns as it is well within the specified distance that an AD should be from homes.

Fenland district council planning committee, Site visit. Picture: Steve Williams.

Fenland district council planning committee, Site visit. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

The woman, who doesn’t want to be named spoke through local councillor David Connor.

She is adamantly opposed to the plans and is determined not to sell her home no matter what FenGrain offer

She has lived at the property for over 30 years and Cllr Connor says all her memories are centred on the home where she now wants to see out her days.

Her neighbour, who is also elderly, is equally against selling out and is vehemently opposed to the anaerobic digester, which the developers say is essential to help beet farmers.

Cllr Connor said there are newts on the site, which has been verified by Cambridge University, as well as other protected species like Barn Owls and it is vital the application is rejected not only for the good of the local residents but also the area’s wildlife.

He emphasised the woman who may hold the development’s future in her hands was happy with the way she had been treated by FenGrain, despite the fact they have approached her several times in a bid to make her sell up, but she fears the anaerobic digester will be a “monstrosity” and she doesn’t want to see it built.

The officer’s report to next week’s meeting says “extensive investigative and design works have been carried out the proposal in conjunction with FDC Environmental health in respect of noise and mitigation including bunds and acoustic barriers, improvements to the silencer, and localised screening have been proposed.”

It says these are “considered acceptable”.

It says FDC’s Environmental Protection is happy that odour omissions will not have a significant impact on the local area as the clamps will only be uncovered when feedstock for the AD is needed.

There will be restrictions on vehicle movements to protect neighbouring residential amenities,

As a result of all this the report concludes “That the impact of noise and odour will not unduly harm amenities of neighbouring residential dwellings.”

The officers conclude: “It is acknowledged that there is a significant amount of local opposition to the proposal, however the submission (by the applicants) demonstrates there will be no adverse impact on the locality in terms of noise, odour pollution or highway safety subject to the imposition of appropriate planning conditions.”

And as a result they recommend approval subject to a raft of conditions.

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