Anaerobic Digester

Elsewhere on the site I’ve already commented on the planning application for the Anaerobic Digester at Great Hele Farm.

Just before I went on holiday I received notification that the planning application was going to appeal and when I came back I learnt that it had suddenly become a major issue amongst local residents.

I’m not against anaerobic digesters in general, in fact I think they can be very good things, what I am against is the size of the proposed digester. In particular, I believe that it will generate far too much heavy goods vehicle traffic both on the inadequate surrounding roads and in South Molton itself.

This is the text of an email I wrote to the planning inspectorate:

“Subject: APP/X1118/A/14/2226565 – Great Hele Farm Anaerobic Digester

In addition to my previous objection I would like to reiterate, and strengthen, my objection because of the large amount of additional heavy goods vehicle traffic that this development will produce.

The development will be situated half-way down a very narrow private lane (Great Hele Lane) which runs from Alswear Old Road in the north to Alswear New Road in the south. The lane itself is a well-used public right of way along its whole length – one of very few in South Molton – and heavy goods vehicles will pose a serious danger to users.

Alswear Old Road is an unclassified road which is essentially no more than a very narrow country lane. This route passes next to the Community college, the proposed site of a primary school, a well-used football field and the projected site of the South Molton sports hub. In order to reach Alswear Old Road from the north all traffic must pass along South Street, which is a very difficult route as it is a narrow urban road with vehicles parked on both sides.

Although Alswear New Road is a B road, it is extremely badly maintained and traffic will have to pass through the centre of South Molton to reach it. In addition the centre of South Molton is subject to a 7.5 tonne weight restriction as are West Street and North Street.

Unfortunately it would appear that all sat-nav software directs users along Alswear Old Road rather than Alswear New Road no matter which direction they approach the site from. It also directs users along routes with a weight restriction.

Devon County Council, the responsible Highways Authority, have clearly said that they have insufficient funds to bring the roads up to the standard that they were in before the disastrous bad weather of 2012. They have gone further than this and stated that they will have to close some of the existing road network to ensure that they can maintain A roads and priority B roads.

The additional level of very heavy goods traffic will damage the roads even further, as well as impairing the amenity of the residents of the town.

In summary the development, if implemented on the proposed scale, will:

  1. Create considerably larger volumes of heavy goods vehicle traffic;
  2. Seriously impair the amenity of local residents by virtue of greatly increased road noise;
  3. Cause significant additional damage to the existing poorly maintained roads;
  4. Increase costs to the local highways authority with no associated Section 106 or CIL funding from the developer, or, indeed, creation of significant employment.

In short, the development as currently proposed should be rejected.”

Whilst I oppose the applications as it currently stands – it hasn’t been altered since it was rejected by the district council – I would almost certainly support a smaller, revised version.

I now don’t think that my argument about taking agricultural land out of food production stands up:

  1. Farmers are currently being paid less than their production costs for wheat – an unsustainable position;
  2. Wheat (and beet) that they produce might well be going to feed anaerobic digesters elsewhere in the country;
  3. The crops produced for the digester can easily be switched to food or cattle feed almost at the drop of a hat – which is not the case for PV panels!

The Truly Independent Councillor

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