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Nick Jones

Spin doctors, liars, damn liars and planning consultants

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I may have mentioned this before, but we have a biogas plant nearby. This is an “on-farm” one that runs on chicken litter, manure, silage, maize and dairy waste. It was granted permission on the grounds that it is about 1MW ( fair size for a farm one) with a permitted feedstock of 22,000 tons PA, 19,000 of which comes from outside the farm itself. It was pretty obvious when built that it was bigger than 1MW, so not a huge surprise that they’ve come back for permission for more feedstock. It was a surprise that they want nearly 70,000 tons though, 66,000 to come in by road, with nearly 60,000 to come out again as digestate.

Obviously this would create a lot more heavy traffic. A lengthy report has been produced with a breakdown of numbers where the overall totals for the various feed types are divided by vehicle payloads to calculate the number of movements.  These figures make interesting reading.

They reckon they can get 18 tons in a farm trailer and possibly they can- physically. However, on the public highway, the maximum gross trailer weight is 18.29 tons - and the trailers themselves weigh between 5.5 and 7 tons..... so legally they can get about 13 tons on. That’s a 37% difference and reduces apparent trip numbers by the same amount.

They've pulled the same trick with the HGVs though in a slightly less ambitious manner. So perhaps more than just sloppy.....

Overall this tactic (lying brazenly) reduces vehicle movements from 13, 000 pa to 10,000 pa. The site is accessed via one, single track lane 1km long, which is also a public highway linking two villages and various other properties. Their “harvest time” traffic flows work out at one vehicle every 3.5 minutes by their reckoning or 2.7 minutes by mine. That’s in both directions..... on a single track lane...... :ohmy:

Would be nice to think the planning authority might pick up on this, but previous experience suggests not.

Similar dishonesty has been employed for this project from the outset. Also for other large industrial developments locally also. When pointed out, it brushed off, explained away (unfortunate error, mis-print etc) or simply ignored.

We are indeed living in the post-truth age.....  :mad:

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I hope you will be making those points in the planning /consultation process. Other concerns would also be just how green is a biogas facility if all/most of the feedstock has to be shipped in by diesel guzzling HGV?

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Yes, letter written today on behalf of the parish council. But I (and others) been doing it for 5 years on this project and others.  No notice is taken...... We are just nimbys..... pointing out inconvenient truths.

I’m a believer in farm biogas, where the scale fits the farm and the majority of feedstock is waste. This isn’t that. It isn’t run by the farmer either, but a company that ultimately answers to rich venture capitalists. The farmer merely leases them the site and is contracted to supply it - he has a tiger by the tail and has to just hang on for the ride or it will eat him. Very dishonest industry - too many rich subsidy miners!

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I was on our Parish Council until recently. PC's are only consultees in Planning matters, but their view should have some weight, especially if you have a Neighbourhood Plan that this development does not comply with and/or it opposes inappropriate industrial scale development. We spent 4 years developing our NP - bloody hard work, but worth it in the end, at least in the short to medium term I think.

IMO it's still worth writing as an individual too.

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Village population only 260 ish. We had 4 people stand for election this time for 7 places.......  The AD plant is "just over the border" in an adjoining, much more populous parish.  All access through our parish though as the roads from their end are so small the heavy traffic cannot get through (though it gets tried fairly often!).  They think the plant is fine as they don't see it or it's traffic.  The new industrial estate in our parish is being counted towards their employment land target too so they are really laughing!

It's the dishonesty of the whole process that pisses me off.  Consultants paid big sums (sometimes on success bonuses!) to twist the facts or invent new ones and produce so much BS that no one has time to read them properly, least of all the few planning officers left who haven't moved on to become poacher in the same areas they were recently gamekeeper.....

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Our Parish population is circa 600, with 9 the number of councillors.

Last Summer there were just 3 of us trying to keep it going - the numbers having dropped from 7 after the NP was finished (it took its toll on a few), and due to some frictions with the Clerk. I stood down toward the end of the year when 4 new councillors were coopted. I'm not sure what will happen next month when the new council is due for election.

I agree the Planning process is frustrating in the extreme at times - we have a very wealthy individual in the village, a noted architect who sits on advisory design review boards and always seems to get his grand schemes approved, funny that.

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Nick

you need to check the Air Quality data 

I think AQ is now one of the biggest hammer in the box. 

Use  your  pollution control AQ officer in the environmental health dept. To question the environmental impact report. For the road transport 

You can also help them with specific local knowledge. 

Distance to carriage way for the facade of dwellings. Eg those that step out of their front door on to pavement. ( NOx AQ drops significantly with distance.)

if they quote monitoring with NOx tubes. These have a 25% accuracy. 

But sadly this is a typical modus operandi get permission for a lesser scheme. Mission creep. So much easier to get permission for a bit more .....

it'll happen every few years

very typical for waste sites

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The installation must have broken planning consent if 1MW was approved and 4 MW built.

The lanes wont last long with that traffic density....who pays for repairs ?

Write to local newspaper raising these doubts, but dont slag off cc.

Local MP aware?

Peter

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1 hour ago, PeterC said:

The installation must have broken planning consent if 1MW was approved and 4 MW built.

The lanes wont last long with that traffic density....who pays for repairs ?

Write to local newspaper raising these doubts, but dont slag off cc.

Local MP aware?

Peter

In my time as an EHO I learnt a lot from my planning colleagues.

one thing was there isn’t really an offence of building something without planning permission. Also if you deviate from a permitted permission it doesn’t mean you have done wrong. 

Typically a planning authority will “invite an application” to regularise what’s been built or use.

it is only when THAT application is refused is it “illegal” but that refusal can be appealed and or a new application made that’s a bit different from the first app. 

Officers can issue a stop notice, but rarely do on commercial uses as these can also be appealed and if the planning authority lose the appeal they are in for serious costs loss of earnings is just the start. 

Applicant can spin this out for years whilst continuing business. This on going business can then they for evidence for any future application data to show “it’s not that bad as you feared”

i have never seen an mp step in seriously on an app that involves employment. Most you’ll get is a weak letter asking that x or y is considered.

highways have a rule book. We use to inwardly smile in planning committee when councillors tried to use road traffic, safety, parking as a reason for objecting. The highways office would say “ it meets the criteria “ !!!

a very strong local plan and AQ are the strongest defences at the moment. 

But in this case the principle use has been set. It’s a professionals argument as to the impact of any increase.

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You have to hit the councillors where it hurts: their re-election. Professional arguments voiced in the local rag such as "the council approved 1MW and $MW was built" make the council look like idiots for not checking their planning officers' competency. ( always worth hinting at possibitly of graft too ). Go for the councilllors jugular. The MP will join in if h/she sees votes. or the opposition will. The more noise the better. 

Peter

 

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It is Marcus Fyshe we have....... too busy sucking up to the ERG and the like to have any time to help his constituents.

Air pollution is a good one. Thanks for that Hamish. Both from the traffic, but also the plant. They have a gas upgrade system to clean up the biogas (and add LPG) to make it acceptable to the grid. It’s been suggested that the CO2 removed (there is a fair bit in biogas) is just dumped to atmosphere. Dunno what happens to the H2S.....

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16 minutes ago, Nick Jones said:

It is Marcus Fyshe we have....... too busy sucking up to the ERG and the like to have any time to help his constituents.

Air pollution is a good one. Thanks for that Hamish. Both from the traffic, but also the plant. They have a gas upgrade system to clean up the biogas (and add LPG) to make it acceptable to the grid. It’s been suggested that the CO2 removed (there is a fair bit in biogas) is just dumped to atmosphere. Dunno what happens to the H2S.....

Nick,

From my w/turbine fights we found REF helpful.

https://www.ref.org.uk/

Try approaching them via the link on that page. REF might know it is commonplace for digester operators to build a several-MW larger installation under false pretences, REF might be able to supply exepert witnesses too.

Good luck !

Peter

 

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Thanks for the REF link Peter, I'd not found that before.  Do you know if there is something similar for gas exporters as this plant does both...?

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Nick

Don't forget that this is also a permitted process ie they need a permit to operate and the EA should inspect it for compliance. 

These inspections are public access docs. 

The permit will cover many aspects of this undertaking volume of waste permitted, storage volumes vehicle movements per day etc etc

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sr2012-no12-anaerobic-digestion-facility-including-use-of-the-resultant-biogas-waste-recovery-operation

you can check these and highlight any failures or non compliance and A. Ask Why this hasn’t been prosecuted. 

B. Use this non compliance to show  environmental disregard and harm in the separate but parallel planning permission and conditions and any new application.

if information is not forth coming use FOI and a request under EIR

 

Edited by Hamish

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Conditions of the original permission limited the import tonnage and required the operator to submit 3 monthly reports to the LPA. Theses records have been asked for, nicely at first, then by FOI request. Nothing forthcoming.

Conditions also defined the land that feed stock could come from, which is continuously flouted and also shows that all digestate is disposed of via pumped systems on the farm even though this could not be done legally. They have in fact been tankering from the beginning.

Problem lies mainly with the LPA and head of planning who has publicly stated that “there is no money in enforcement “. They just don’t enforce conditions on commercial developments. Different story for householders mind.....

I will follow up on the EA route though I don’t think they had any input into the volumes on this one.

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Well if the council ignore a legitimate foi 

 Challenge them and complain to the  ICO

https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-freedom-of-information/complaints/

 

i am afraid it is a war of attrition. I had to respond to foi’s and we had very strict internal governance to ensure we met foi deadlines.  ( I only left in June last year for family reasons)

Some Councils rely on people just giving up. But don’t, once you have embarked on a task follow it through to the next level even if this is a 3rd party like the ico.

 

Edited by Hamish
Added detail

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