Safety fears for pupils and concern over the heritage of a rural village have seen record numbers of objections against a proposal for an anaerobic digester. Residents of Halberton village have expressed strong objections at April’s parish council meeting to a proposed development at Bycott Farm that would see the installation of an anaerobic digestion plant.
Lewis Clarke www.devonlive.com
The Dibble family plans to build an anaerobic digestion plant at their dairy farm, Bycott Farm, located in the open countryside south of the settlement boundary of Halberton. The proposed AD plant will use biogas (methane) produced from slurry and manure to generate electricity and heat for the farm’s use. Surplus methane gas produced will be sold to a third party for injection into the national gas grid. The plant’s construction will replace the farm’s smaller on-farm tractors and telehandlers with their electrical equivalents and use biogas to run their larger tractors and machinery fleet.
Bycott Farm currently has a number of daily vehicle movements, including 29-tonne articulated HGVs, milk tankers, vans, cars, tractors, and trailers. The application proposes that the AD plant will increase the number of slurry HGV 30,000-litre tanker two-way movements from 6 to 29 per week, and the number of vehicles transporting straw will increase from 1 to 2 per week stating that the impact of this increase in movements is expected to be minimal.
According to Nick Govier, a spokesperson for the community, over 140 individual objections have been received, setting a record for the most objections to any application seen by the Mid Devon District Council.
The objections cite various concerns, including road safety, odours, and damage to the local infrastructure. The chair of governors and headmaster at Halberton Primary School have also expressed concerns about the safety of children on the road, and parents have begun making alternative school arrangements.
Mr Govier said: “In reality, the latest traffic report adds very little, but it does say that there will be a doubling of HGV volumes. There will be a minimum of 5,000 HGV movements passing through Lower Town to Bycott Farm annually. We know the road infrastructure is not there, and we see road damage; potholes, walls, and pavements are slowly eroded for anyone walking through Lower Town.
“The proposal has been framed as an on-farm application, and that is not the case as there will be external feedstock grown, and there will need to be slurry materials arriving from surrounding farms which are not built into the traffic volumes. The highways authority visited, but they do not believe there is a traffic issue in Halberton and say there is capacity in Lower Town and High Street for the volumes coming through. More accidents will continue to happen.”
He continued: “This development is within 1km of two conservation areas – The Grand Western Canal and Halberton Conservation area – and 27 listed buildings, of which one is Grade I and three are Grade II. The height of the digestion plant is the same as the parish church tower, and it will significantly harm the Halberton conservation area. It would only be 295m from the Halberton Primary School. Case studies show gases and odour travel up to 400m away from AD plants, and the heritage report does not consider noise, dust and pollutants.”
Chris Getheridge, a resident who has been driving HGVs for 45 years, said that the proposed development poses a significant safety risk. “To see the lack of concern from the authorities in their report on the possibility of accidents is criminal, and I cannot understand it. It is an accident waiting to happen, and it will be a bad one,” he warned.
Des Keenoy, who lives on Halberton High Street and looks out onto Bycott Farm, also expressed concerns about the impact of the development on the community.
He said: “Bycott Farm is a 20-hour-a-day operation mentioned in the previous objection; they carry on working with bright lights, shouting, and dropping large empty skips until 1 am, and they start again at 5 am. There is no effective screening.
“This is an industrial plant processing the product of animals and would be better placed in an industrial estate rather than turning Halberton village into an industrial estate.”
Halberton Parish Council has submitted a strong objection to the proposed development, citing concerns about traffic volumes and safety, protection of heritage assets, and adherence to the Local Plan. “The Parish Council consider that the application is of an industrial scale and not in keeping with the definition of on-farm activities and believe it should be considered as a commercial undertaking and not agricultural,” the objection states.
This anaerobic digestion scenario is already familiar to the residents of Clyst St Mary and the West End of East Devon. Large landowners / farmers quite willing to pile endless misery onto rural communities, just so they can wring the very last drop of public funding available from an overgenerous government subsidy scheme really designed to direct public money towards wealthy Tory party supporters .
These applications can only succeed with the full compliance of a weak local planning authorities, more influenced by the threat of legal costs than producing balanced decisions, supported by a highways department that often cant be bothered to even get from behind their desk to visit a site, but instead suggest that “statistically” everything should be ok if they do absolutely nothing”! Unfortunately this lack of control of the local anaerobic industry is another example of how dysfunctional local government has become over the last few years.
All in the name of net zero?? Really???
What has happened to the Highways department? They objected to Exmouth’s Plumb Park, but were overruled on a development where there were troubling links between the old EDDC and the applicants, via the EDBF and other matters. Yet now they have declined to intervene over a more inappropriate application close to Plumb Park, and now this. Have they been corrupted or just lost interest? I can’t remember their position on Straightgates.