Digester approved despite local concern

The former Alcan smelter site in Lynemouth. Picture by AIRFOTOS.
The former Alcan smelter site in Lynemouth. Picture by AIRFOTOS.

Controversial proposals to build a facility to generate renewable energy on a former industrial site have been given the green light.

An anaerobic digestion (AD) facility and combined heat and power (CHP) plant facility on the former Alcan smelter site at Lynemouth were approved by 13 votes to one at Tuesday’s meeting of the council’s strategic planning committee.

Crop silage and agricultural residues would be fed into the AD facility, which would produce odourless liquid and solid digestate which could be reused on farmland as a fertiliser. Biomethane produced in the fermenter tanks would power the generator in the CHP unit.

Lynemouth Parish Council objected on a number of grounds, including the adverse visual impact, odour, highway issues, noise or disturbance, the potential for future expansion to include food-waste disposal and the negligible impact on the local economy.

Speaking at the meeting on the council’s behalf, local ward member, Coun Liz Dunn, explained that the objections had been formulated following an ‘open and transparent meeting with residents’.

“I want to ensure the views of those that will be most affected are heard by this council,” she said.

“This development is seen as a very high price to pay for five or six jobs at most.”

But Nick McAllister, from applicant Farm Renewables, highlighted the positive contributions the scheme would make in terms of renewable energy, providing an income source for farmers and to the local economy.

Responding to a question from a councillor, planning officer Joe Nugent said that no complaints had been received in relation to a similar plant at Hexham.

Coun Barry Flux moved approval, but with the addition of the independent odour assessment being included as part of the approved plans.

Coun Gordon Castle said: “One has to think about the impact on the environment and I can see why the parish council is so concerned about potential impacts, but I’m content that the Environment Agency is the permitting body in this case.

“As the traffic is not going through Lynemouth, in terms of impact on the community, I think overall it’s acceptable in planning terms.”

Coun Rupert Gibson said that he had visited similar sites elsewhere, adding: “They basically just smell like a farm, no more, no less.”

Concluding the debate, Coun Flux said: “We have come up with something that we have tightened up as much as we possibly can.”

Planning and design consultancy Barton Willmore acts for the owners of the Lynefield Park site, Harworth Group. Director Claire Kent said: “Farm Renewables’ plans are a fantastic boost for the Lynemouth site and for Northumberland.

“This former seat of industrial strength is now going to play a new role in the energy market – bringing jobs and investment to the area. The anaerobic digestion facility is a positive aspect of the overall regeneration of the former Alcan smelter site.”