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Monday, 20 October 2014

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Tempers flare over plans for power plant on edge of Brampton

Tempers flared as hundreds of people turned out to hear controversial plans for a new power generator in Brampton.

Brampton digester photo
The packed meeting at Brampton Community Centre

Around 200 people gathered last night in the town’s community centre for the meeting to discuss the proposed building of an anaerobic digester at the Townfoot Industrial Estate – which is close to private housing estates.

The plans have sparked objections from residents who fear increased traffic carrying slurry and silage through the town centre, methane contamination and foul smells.

They are also concerned that the digester, which will be built on a flood plain, will increase the risk of flooding in the area.

The digester, which breaks down waste and turns it into fuel, would be powered by silage and slurry from farms within a 3.1 mile radius of the suggested site.

The meeting was organised by community group Brampton and Beyond through its Brampton and Beyond Energy (Babe) division.

Tim Coombe, head of Babe, chaired the meeting which had to be moved from its original room to larger premises to cope with number of people who turned out.

Shouts of “Why weren’t we told?” were fired at Mr Coombe from members of the audience who claimed that they hadn’t been properly informed that the meeting was taking place.

Angie Findon, who runs the BIG magazine in Brampton, said many people only heard about it after town resident Bill Walton sent out hundreds of leaflets urging them to attend.

Mr Walton confirmed that in two days he had informed people who hadn’t known the meeting was on. As a result 200 had turned out.

Mr Coombe responded by telling the meeting his group had sent out 2,000 leaflets and put up notices in Brampton.

But Ms Findon said that although leaflets had been sent out by Babe these did not explain the situation clearly enough.

“A lot of people would have thrown it in the bin,” she said.

Mr Walton said: “I am not against this in principle, I am against where this is going to be located.”

He told the meeting he had concerns about the noise the generator would create and was worried that smells would be produced by the plant. It would be “morally wrong”, he added, to use silage which would have been fed to cows as fuel to generate power.

The meeting was told that the digester would produce gas which could either be sold back into the gas grid or used to make electricity. The process would also leave a product known as digestate, which could be used for fertiliser. The plant would have an upfront capital cost of £1m, half of which would come through loans with the rest from a community share issue and Government grants. Its operating costs would be £200,000 with annual net profits expected to be of the £60,000.

David Tate, a retired businessman, said: “If I had gone to my accountant with a plan with these kinds of profits I would have been laughed out the building.”

Mr Coombe replied saying that the discussion on the scheme was only beginning.

He said: “We have got to have community support for this project to progress. If we don’t get community support, it is quite simple, it won’t progress.”

He added that any money made would be used to fund community projects and stressed the process was at an early stage. No planning application had yet been submitted. The earliest date given for it to be up and running was 2016.

Several members of the audience questioned why Townfoot had been selected.

Mr Coombe replied: “I am not saying the location is cast in iron but we have to start with a location.”

Gunter Woltron, an anaerobic digestion consultant from Hexham, went through the technical details of the proposal and explained how issues such as noise, odour and emissions to water would be dealt with. He told the audience regulations were strict and added: “Planning is on your side.”

He also said different technology and licences would be needed for the site to use sewage and animal by-products.

After the meeting, there were mixed feelings among the people who attended.

Steve Martin said: “My concern is raising £1m, it will have to come through Government grants, the community can’t raise that kind of money.”

Ciera Heymann praised Babe for having the presentation.

She said: “If this was a private company they would not be doing this, they would just put in a planning application.”

Mr Coombe said Babe would look at the feedback they have received before making any further decisions.

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