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High Hedley Biogas Plant

W. J. Drennan Ltd t/a High Hedley Biogas Plant

We were introduced to Mr Will Drennan the owner of High Hedley Hope Farm, along with Alan & Janice Pearson the farms management team in the summer of 2011. Alan was aware of on farm AD from discussions with his agronomist Gavin Fleming who had visited a number of AD plants around the country. Mr Drennan was keen to develop a feasibility study, not for an agricultural AD plant but for a full scale waste operation, believing this to be a far more sustainable approach having up to 1,000 head of cattle on the 850 acre farm, which would be competing for any agricultural feedstock such as grass silage.

After establishing a viable grid connection was available through Northern Power Grid and the intended development field was suitable for the Biogas Plant Construction through detailed ground investigations, we partnered with Prism Planning and submitted our application for a 500kW Food Waste Plant including the use of ABP (Animal by Products) on 7th June 2012.

The application was initially refused by Durham County Council Planning Committee on 6th November 2012 which whilst bitterly disappointing, with hindsight was probably the best thing that happened to the project at that time. Our then Dutch technology partner had been less than helpful during the planning process and after the refusal we realised that this lack of support was more down to lack of experience and resources, than anything else. We were refused planning on the grounds of visual, odour and noise impacts. We decided rather than diving straight in with our appeal we would further research the market, looking for a partner with more experience than our previous and one that was prepared to engage with our planning consultants in order to submit a robust appeal which would challenge the basis of our refusal. We finally partnered with EnviTec Biogas AG a German technology provider with over 600 installed plants in Europe, 6 of those being in the UK. Furthermore one of these UK plants was processing food waste and at an identical size to that we planned to launch at being 500kW.

Our appeal hearing was scheduled for 17th April 2013 and was attended by Steve Barker of Prism Planning along with his Head of Planning Rod Hepplewhite and Paul Palmer from CH4 representing the client Mr Will Drennan. The local objectors were there in numbers and made their support for the initial refusal very clear to the Appellant Inspector. Steve Barker presented an excellent appeal supported by both written and visual documentation arguing the visual, odour and noise impacts that we were originally refused permission.

Our appeal was upheld on 31st May 2013 and very unusually we were awarded our full costs for the appeal, the Planning Inspector commenting that our plan should never have been refused in the first place. This was nice as it completely vindicated our original application and the evidence submitted with it. The award of costs was very helpful although would never cover the cost of delays, however as mentioned earlier, what we had learned between our initial refusal and the grant of appeal would be difficult to put a price on so all in all we were a very happy team.

We had to return to the planners in March 2014 with a Section 73 Planning Amendments request to alter the height of our Reception Building, quite considerably from 4m to 11m in height, with a slight site re-positioning of that and other items of plant. The reason for the height adjustment was down to the delay suffered through our initial refusal. Originally we had planned to only process liquid wastes which would be delivered by bulk tankers. When we were refused planning we had to give notice of this to the contracted supplier and during the period between our refusal and planning appeal, they contracted the liquid waste to another operator. The application was once again heard by the DCC Planning Committee on 6th May 2014 but on this occasion they wholeheartedly supported the application, realising it was their original decision to refuse that had brought this application back to them.

CGI images of the plant were created from 3 different viewpoints. The farm being at the top of a hill means it is only visible from north and north east. Viewpoint 2 is from the car park of the Hedleyhope Fell Nature Reserve.

As a condition of our Planning Permission we have agreed to plant a 30m deep shelter belt which has a massive impact on the visual impact of the project over time.

At 20 years there is no sign of the plant at all and this will be achieved far sooner as we have used the spoil from the construction site to form a 1m bund over the entire shelter belt area which in real terms means the views in the 10 and 20 year images should be achieved 2-3 years sooner.

NB: The images shown above are from our Section 73 Amendments Application of March 2014.

Construction had already commenced on site as the Digestate Lagoon and site clearance were not affected by the S73 application and the construction story can be viewed within our media section

The AD Plant has been designed in such a way that whilst commencing operations as a 500kW Plant we can increase output to 1MW by simply increasing our feedstock volumes. This is something that would require us to return once again to the planners and secure a further 500kW connection to the National Grid and we are confident of receiving both in time, after showing a successful and problem free operational plant at the 500kW scale.

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