September 23 2014 Latest news:
Friday, September 5, 2014
There was barely room to move as more than 120 people packed Wimblington Parish Hall to have their say on controversial plans for an anaerobic digester in their village.
Grain storage firm Fengrain have asked Fenland District Council for permission to build an anaerobic digester on seven acres of land at their Hook Lane headquarters.
But, at the meeting, concerns were raised about issues including noise, smell and traffic.
And MP Steve Barclay, who was represented at the meeting by Charlie Graham-Cameron, said he would oppose the plans.
Mr Barclay revealed the result of the contrasting petitions he put on his website for and against the digester – 151 voted against it, 11 people were in favour.
He said: “Fifteen times as many people opposed the plans. While digesters have their place, they need to be located in the right place.
“We don’t want to repeat the mistakes of wind turbines where they have been excessively implemented to the detriment of the local community.
“I want to make it clear to residents that I oppose this application.”
Councillor David Connor described the plans as “totally the wrong application in totally the wrong place”.
He said: “Digesters may or may not be the way forward but for Wimblington it’s totally wrong.
“Lets all stick together and not think it’s a done deal. Lets fight for what’s right.
“Hopefully the planning committee are not fools and see the application for what it is.”
Local farmer Sarah Coulson, of Englands and Eatons Charity Farm, also spoke out against the plans.
She said: “Fengrain say changes in the EU sugar quota in 2017 will threaten the future of sugar beet growing in this area.
“But British Sugar, at Wissington, currently use 2.1 million tonnes of sugar beet for sugar production and 240,000 tonnes for bio-ethanol production. The have invested 14 million in upgrading the factory this year.
“It is appalling that Fengrain say local farmers need this.”
Residents said the right hand turn out of Hook Lane is already difficult and, if the digester gets approved, would only get worse.
The digester works like a cow’s stomach, breaking down the feedstock and generating methane.
Gas produced by the plant will be fed into the national grid whilst digestate is used as a form of manure.
Fengrain director Paul Randle says the company “genuinely believes the plant will not adversely affect the area.
“It will also bring employment, green energy, investment and give local farmers alternative options for their crops.”
He says there will be virtually no noise or smell from the plant and the site will be screened off to take away its potential visual impact.
The plant will create two full time jobs and allow Fengrain to employ their part-time staff for longer each year.
The plans, they said, would cause a huge increase in traffic at an already busy junction, noting there had been numerous deaths on that stretch of the A141.
One resident said her father, who lives near an anaerobic digester in Bury St Edmunds, told her roads to and from it were “gridlocked”, while another resident said farmers in Somerset described the smell that came from a digester as “a mix between dog mess and burnt plastic”.
One person commented: “Farmers don’t need it and there are no local jobs. What’s the benefit?”
Resident Angela Johnson said: “I looked out my bedroom window at 7.30am this morning and there were seven lorries parked in the public by-way.
“We have all been very tolerant of Fengrain and allowed them to increase their grain storage but now I think they’ve stepped over the line.
“When is the council going to say enough is enough for Wimblington?”
Wimblington resident and businessman David Green, of Chapel Cottage Plants, who chaired the meeting, closed proceedings by saying: “This is a big development that will affect everybody in the village. We don’t want it.”
A Wimblington Action Group has been set up on Facebook to oppose the plans. The deadline for submitting objections to Fenland District Council is September 9.