Victory for Wimblington villagers as Fengrain lose appeal to build an anaerobic digester plant in Hook Lane

PUBLISHED: 17:08 16 February 2016 | UPDATED: 17:08 16 February 2016

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

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

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Villagers have seen off proposals by Fengrain for an anaerobic digester plant and three silage clamps in Hook Lane, Wimblington.

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

An appeal against refusal of permission by Fenland District Council was heard by the Planning Inspectorate last month – with the verdict announced today.

“The appeal is dismissed,” said Nick Palmer, the inspector who conducted the appeal and later visited the appeal site.

Hundreds protested against the decision which followed two applications by Fengrain, both rejected by the district council.

Fengrain went ahead on an appeal on their first application which Mr Palmer said, if approved, would cause “considerable harm to the character and appearance of the area and to the living conditions of nearby residents”.

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

Mr Palmer said: “In terms of the environmental role, I find that the harm would outweigh the benefits.

“The improved economic position may be beneficial socially in some respects but the harms I have identified would have negative social impacts. Considered as a whole….the proposal would not be a sustainable form of development.”

He pointed out that the farming members of the co-operative that owns Fengrain would have provided feedstock for the AD plant. Sugar beet and rye would be among the crops needed for the plant and he said Fengrain had planned “close management” of deliveries.

But the inspector was not happy with the views should the AD plant go ahead which he said would be “visually intrusive; it would completely change the character of the byway”.

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

He added: “The close proximity of the storage tanks, the silage clamps and the sugar beet unit, their height and bulk and industrial appearance would be particularly harmful.”

He was also concerned that the AD plant could ever be properly screened and its presence “would be harmful to the overall character of the landscape in terms of reducing the openness”.

Mr Palmer was particularly concerned about the living conditions of those at Ivy House in Hook Lane and the AD tanks “would be tall and bulky and would be close to the front of the house”.

In a separate report the inspector dismissed an appeal by Fengrain for costs; they claimed the council’s case contradicted the advice given by its officers.

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

Fengrain also claimed it relied on “mere assertion rather than comprehensive analysis and fails to balance the council’s objections against planning policies that support renewable energy development”.

But Mr Palmer said the council was justified in considering the range of representations related to material planning consideration.

“There is nothing unreasonable about the way the council’s decision was made.”

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