Several concerns raised over controversial renewable energy plans at Great Hele Farm

CONTROVERSIAL plans to build an anaerobic digester on a South Molton farm have been deferred to allow councillors to visit the proposed site.

North Devon Council’s planning committee was recommended to approve plans for a 1.3MW ‘gas works’, which would be the first of its kind in North Devon, at Great Hele Farm.

The proposed anaerobic digester, which is designed to turn waste into electricity for on-site and national grid use, would stand seven metres tall and 45m in diameter.

But a number of concerns were raised at Wednesday’s meeting, most notably the impact a large scale digester could have on the surrounding area’s road network.

Objectors also pointed to the use of grade two arable land – among the best for growing crops – for building the unit.

Questions were also asked of the morality of growing foodstuffs which could be used to feed the starving specifically to feed the digester.

Councillor Glynn Lane also suggested that considerably more food and waste would need to be brought in than the 5-6,000 tonnes suggested by the applicant.

Trevor Allen, of George Nympton, said: “This is being put forward as a green use of farm waste. The reality is this is a gas works with the sole intention to create methane to sell.

But, speaking for the plans, David Manley said the digester would be CO2 neutral and would ‘secure the owners’ farm for 20 years and create jobs’.

The council’s planning committee is expecting to receive a number of similar applications in the coming months.

A plant in Holsworthy became the UK’s first in 2002.

Councillor Joe Tucker said: “This is a new thing for district councils to deal with and I think we must have a site visit.

“The road issue is the major problem we should study, as well as the visual impact and any possible smell and noise.”

Cllr David Worden said: “I think a site visit is a good idea here because it will help us not just with this application but also in the future.”