The plant was designed to take 45,000 tonnes food by-products a year to generate heat and electricity by burning biogas, with digestate being used as a fertiliser. It would be linked to operations in an adjacent quarry due to cease in 2042. The appellants said the appeal site had been subject to large-scale quarrying operations that were likely to continue for the next 25 years.
They asserted that harm to the openness of the area was extremely low, since the site was essentially previously developed and benefited from planning permissions comprising inappropriate uses and allowing recycling of construction and demolition waste. Since the AD plant would be removed at the end of its operational life, they maintained that the permanence of the green belt would not be adversely affected.
The secretary of state decided that the plant’s temporary nature and its siting in a quarry bowl with limited views would not mitigate its impact the site itself. In his opinion, the site made a positive contribution to the openness of the green belt and the adverse effects would occur for a substantial period of time. He placed significant weight on the need to check unrestricted sprawl.
In addition, he was not convinced that the plant’s operation would result in acceptable odour concentrations. Agreeing with his inspector, he found it likely that some local residents would not achieve a good standard of amenity, contrary to the NPPF and the council’s unitary development plan.
The conflict with green belt policy required the appellants to demonstrate that very special circumstances existed, the secretary of state noted. He saw significant uncertainty as to the likely tonnage of waste that would be diverted from landfill. Her gave renewable electricity production significant weight, but found that the economic benefits would be modest, he confirmed. The planning balance justified dismissing the appeal, he concluded.
Inspector: Ian Jenkins; Inquiry