Fierce local resistance for proposed biogas plant in Scottish Highlands
Acorn Bioenergy submitted a planning application to Highland Council last week, to be built at a site 350m south of Fearn Aerodrome near Balintore.
Mmebers of Balintore and Hilton Community Council have said that concerns raised at a public constulation have been ignored.
"The community is horrified by the proposed plant. There has been uproar in our local communities and we are totally against it," said Alastair Gill, chairman of BHCC.
"Acorn have not addressed any of the concerns raised by the public since the plans were revealed and they are now putting in for planning permission. They have run roughshod over the community's views, basically."
Acorn said development of the £25m plant, which it hopes will be operational by 2024, would create 15 full-time jobs in the area and around 100 during its construction.
It also said it should also offer local farmers a new, long-term source of income, selling feedstock, such as energy crops, silages, straw and waste inputs - including manures - to be used in the plant’s five digestion tanks, along with draff and pot ale from local distilleries.
BHCC teamed up with Fearn community council to hold a public meeting in August, enabling residents to express concerns and raise questions over increases in the volume of traffic, the plant's proximity to nearby warehousing facilities and its distance from the gas grid.
Proposals estimate that the AD plant will result in an additional 14,352 vehicle movements annually, averaging out at 1198 extra journeys per month.
Concerns were also raised over the plant's use of vent flares to burn excess biogas and its proximity to distillery warehouses and a micro-distillery nearby.
Gill added: "One of the biggest concerns is the road infrastructure and traffic management. The roads network around Fearn and Balintore is not capable or fit for purpose to cope with a thousand extra HGV movements each month. These are not just little vehicles, we are talking about 44 tonne HGVs.
"People might say – what's wrong with it, you shouldn't discourage industry coming to the area – but you have to look at the area and its current infrastructure. The roads are not maintained well as it is. We have a constant fight to have potholes filled or repaired each year, so to add further pressure would be unacceptable. We don't feel they have thought about this and they aren't willing to listen."
Gill also stated that concerns exist over the location of the site in proximity to the gas grid itself, which is some 40 miles away.
Acorn have stated that the Fearn site was prioritised due to its good access to farms and distilleries that can provide high quality crops and residues to help them produce "clean, green biogas".
Balintore and Hilton CC plan to hold a community council meeting in Balintore on Tuesday November 15, where objections to the application will be gathered to be packaged for submission to Highland Council.