Fengrain face to face with the Churchill spirit ... 'We shall fight your AD plant in the council chamber. We shall fight your AD plant at appeal. We shall never surrender, we shall go on to the VERY end!'

PUBLISHED: 11:33 22 January 2016 | UPDATED: 11:33 22 January 2016

Rachel Ryder and her daughter, Elizabeth. Picture: Steve Williams.

Rachel Ryder and her daughter, Elizabeth. Picture: Steve Williams.

Archant

A mum of four and her 11-year-old daughter made a passionate appeal to a Government planning inspector to turn down an "eyesore" of an anaerobic digester saying "please don't blight her future."

Rachel Ryder won a round of applause after she took to the podium at Fenland Hall with her daughter Elizabeth to try and stop Fengrain’s bid to build the AD plant at Hook Lane, Wimblington near March.

She said: “Heavy lorries with up to 78 movements a day will make their way down narrow lanes with no passing place to take their load to the anaerobic digester.

“Children and families ride their bikes down that lane; she may be riding her horse or driving her first car along narrow roads and come face to face with a 40 foot truck, I dread to think what could happen.

“This will affect her long after we have gone. She is the next generation and will inherit the mess we leave behind.

Public Inquiry into Fengrain AD plant. Picture: Steve Williams.Public Inquiry into Fengrain AD plant. Picture: Steve Williams.

“This digester is in the wrong place. It must be turned down.”

Mrs Ryder made her emotive speech during a public inquiry by Fengrain into the refusal of their application by Fenland District Council.

The company has twice been refused permission for a digester at different locations within the same site- their appeal today was on their first refusal in 2014.

Seventy villagers listened as nine local residents urged the AD plant proposals to be scrapped.

Public Inquiry into Fengrain AD plant. Picture: Steve Williams.Public Inquiry into Fengrain AD plant. Picture: Steve Williams.

The residents claimed local government rules insist community opinion must be considered – and in this instance it was firmly opposed to the affects an AD plant would have on the character and appearance of the area.

Backing their campaign is NE Cambs MP Steve Barclay who, in a letter to the inquiry, expressed fears about the impact of heavy lorry traffic.

Increased lorry traffic would affect surrounding villages and the busy A141, he said, and he added that a similar anaerobic digester at Chittering had been fined £10,000 for polluting two fen drains.

He told the inquiry: “It’s out of step with the character of the village.”

Peter Brady, Fengrain’s solicitor, warned the inspector, Nick Palmer, that during a planned site visit later he would be seeing it at its worst “because it’s winter”.

But consultant Keith Hutchinson, acting for Fenland District Council, said: “That’s exactly the time when it should be judged - because for several months each year residents will have to put up with the view like that.”

Chris Smith, on behalf of Fengrain, said: “When you drive down the bypass you experience views in an industrial context rather than agricultural and I wouldn’t consider it to be open countryside.”

Fengrain is applying to recover the costs of the planning appeal.

The company hopes, if it wins the appeal it will use the AD plant to process 35,000 to 40,000 tonnes of sugar beet and maize each year to produce gas for the National Grid.

Maureen Davis, chairman of Wimblington Parish Council

“There’s a massive amount of local objection. The visual impact cannot be under estimated and will change the Fen landscape. Already at night it is lit up green and looks like an alien station, it cannot be allowed to grow and grow.”

“The proposal has completely ignored the views of local community - the residents have made it very clear from the start how we feel. This is in the wrong place.”

Arthur Lamb, chairman of Wimblington Against the Anaerobic Digester WAAD

“My home is 250 metres from the site. We are already suffering from massive lorries passing our front door.”

If approved it would affect the Fenland skyline, he said. Plans predicted a £3.5m profit for the digester but that would involve a £2.4m Government subsidy, he said.

“It’s driven by the greed of Fengrain and its directors.”

Liz Wright, Wimblington parish councillor and former employer of Fengrain

I moved to the area in the 80s to work as assistant general manager. At the time I was proud to be part of the company that formed in 1972.”

Fengrain was a co-operative set up to help small farmers get the same prices for crops as large farmers.

It started with 158 members and grew from taking 16,000 tonnes in 1974 to 42,000 tones in 1984, she said.

Local people made allowances for the extra lorries during harvest time from July to September but now it has grown she said: “I am ashamed that the company I was so proud to work for” had moved away from helping farmers to instead planning to build an invasive profit machine.

County councillor Dave Connor

Cllr Connor said for two residents living close to the planned site it would “ruin their lives.”

One at Ivy Farm lives just 16 metres from the site and one is 35 metres away at Greengate Farm and has not been taken into consideration.

Trees that Fengrain’s representative boast to shield their new development were planted years ago by one of these residents, he added.

Christopher Hennen, treasurer of WAAD

“There are already access road problems which will be exacerbated. The width of the road is six metres and a HGV width is just 3.07 metres - two vehicles are unable to pass.

“If approved there will be 6,000 vehicle movements a year, it will be heavier traffic at harvest time. Residents already face a lengthy wait to get out on the A14. This will make journeys to and from their homes even more of a nightmare.”

Sarah Colson, local sugar beet farmer

The extra crops needed to run the digester is “a drop in the ocean” and is nothing to do with helping secure the economic security for farmers.

“It’s not about helping local farmers it is purely about profits,” she said.

Shelley Fowler, WAAD member and horse rider

“Once past the grain store it is rural. Local riders regularly use the byway or Eastwood End as a safe alternative for riding.”

She said extra lorry traffic and machinery noise could startle horse close to the busy A141 with fears of them bolting.

“It’s an accident waiting to happen,” she said.

David Green, director of Chapel Cottage Plants at Wimblington

“This plan is an eyesore and will cause major problems with traffic. A lot of us will suffer and it will go on and on.

“Look at the people here. It is all about the effects on people and the next generation.”

Other issues raised at the meeting include problems of noise, smell and damaging wildlife.

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