Villagers fight to stop Biogas development

Residents are calling on secretary of state Eric Pickles to help them fight a development at a dairy farm.

HOR 191009 Crouchlands farm, Kirdford. Gwyn Jones. anaerobic digester. -photo by steve cobb
HOR 191009 Crouchlands farm, Kirdford. Gwyn Jones. anaerobic digester. -photo by steve cobb

Plaistow and Ifold Parish Council and Kirdford Parish Council have written to Eric Pickles, secretary of state for communities and local government, seeking action over a re-development at Crouchland Farm in Plaistow.

Planning permission was given some years ago to use manure from cattle there to produce energy to run the farm. The parishes have become concerned over increased activity on site.

West Sussex County Council and Chichester District Council took enforcement action against Crouchland Biogas Ltd. The company has now submitted a retrospective planning application to convert the site into a gas and electricity generating plant.

The parishes want Mr Pickles to order the county council to carry out an environmental screening assessment as it considers the application.

Stuart East, chairman of Plaistow and Ifold Parish Council explained why. He said: “It started to expand considerably over the last 18 months. There’s been large scale production on site to take the capacity significantly beyond what they can produce from the cows (on site) and bringing it in from outside with lots of HGVs.”

Resident Paul Jordan said: “We were supportive of the original anaerobic digester at the farm.

“But now the dairy farm has all but gone, replaced by thousands of tonnes of waste being transported daily in huge HGV tankers, which are completely unsuitable for the rural lanes around Plaistow.”

Crouchland Biogas Ltd has appealed to the Planning Inspectorate against the enforcement notices.

A spokesman for the farm said: “The anaerobic digestion plant at Crouchland Farm has been operating since 2009. It was one of the first plants of its kind in the UK and generates electricity sufficient to power more than 2,000 homes.

“Recent plans to convert the plant from electricity export to biomethane generation, capturing and compressing the biogas for export into the national gas network for use in homes, is a 250 per cent more efficient use of the gas energy already produced and is driven by national energy policy.

“Biomethane generated by the plant will provide energy to heat more than 7,000 homes all year round.

“We have been in discussions with the various authorities for over 18 months and a detailed planning application is now in process with West Sussex County Council, and all stakeholders will have an opportunity to comment.

“Our businesses employ 26 full-time staff, a significant contributor to the local rural economy. Many live and work on the farm.”

A county council spokesman said the application was subject to public consultation until July 31 and it was awaiting instruction from the Planning Inspectorate about the appeal. All enforcement notices are on hold while the application is being considered.