Hatch Warren resident Sam Weller has resigned from the liaison committee of the Anaerobic Digester that has been built on Portsmouth Estates land just over the M3 motorway bridge.
We asked him to explain why.
“I joined the committee, which consists of Borough and County Councillors, Council Officers, representatives of Portsmouth Estates and Tamar, the digester operators, plus local residents and schools, because I wanted to help ensure the digester worked without adverse effects on Hatch Warren.
Nobody can argue that the principle of the digester is anything but laudable – taking food waste that would otherwise go to landfill, and turning it into fertiliser while generating clean electricity. However, from the beginning it has been apparent that the digester’s green credentials were a carefully calculated facade. The planning application portrayed a facility that would be shielded from view by extensive planting. Anyone who walks up the hill to Farleigh will realise that hasn’t happened. The facility would be sealed, so there would be no horrible smells affecting local residents. Ask any of the people who live at Kennel Farm how that turned out. The fertiliser produced would be spread on Portsmouth Estates land, meaning no lorries or tankers travelling through Hatch Warren. Well, amazingly, the operators hadn’t realised how much fertiliser would be produced, and dozens of tankers now make trips through Hatch Warren to distribute the excess. The digester was supposed to take thousands of tons of food waste produced locally, very green, but in fact they’ve been bringing it in by lorries from across the South of England, the Midlands and East Anglia – so, not so green. And finally, the planners imposed restrictions on the times of operation and numbers of huge lorries that could travel to and from the site through Hatch Warren, and on the lorries’ route through the estate, to protect the amenity of residents and, by avoiding the morning and afternoon school runs, to protect our children. I have spent hours dealing with Tamar, and with the authorities, over Tamar’s constant flouting of the timing and route restrictions, and the apparent inability or apathy of the authorities in letting them do so.
Tamar consider that the timing restrictions designed to stop lorries thundering along Woodbury Road at all hours of the day and night are voluntary – so long as the trucks park up and don’t actually enter the site during the restricted times. Constant flouting of the route restrictions was constantly excused by ‘we’ve had a word with the driver to make sure it doesn’t happen again’. But it did.
The site’s planning permission imposed an average limit of 22 lorry movements per day, and several months ago the committee required Tamar to provide details of the lorry movements over a 6-month period. Eventually, after much prodding, Tamar complied, claiming that the figures they produced for a 7-month period averaged just under 20 per day. In fact, analysis of the figures revealed that the true average for the 7 months was over 25 per day, more than 14% over the permitted level, but that in August and September 2014 the average movements were 35 and 39 respectively per day, getting on for double the allowed number.
I’ve resigned from the committee because I think I’m wasting my time; Tamar is operating a facility that ticks the fashionable green boxes, so they’re permitted to ignore the planning restrictions that were imposed to protect Hatch Warren and its residents with apparent impunity. And they know it.”
Tamar Energy in Response
30 April 2015
I understand you have received a letter about the AD plant’s operating practices. Please see below our letter for your consideration:
Tamar Energy’s Basingstoke anaerobic digestion (AD) plant, situated on the site of the old Carousel Dairy on the Portsmouth Estate, Farleigh Wallop, was constructed in 2012/13 and commissioned in 2013/14. It accepts up to 40,000 tonnes of organic waste per year and converts this into electricity, enough renewable energy to power 3000 UK homes. So far, six local full-time jobs have been created. From the project’s inception, we aim to be a good neighbour and try to minimise any impact on the community through the AD plant’s lifespan. The AD plant is monitored 24/7 which ensures it is operating safely.
There are nearly seven million tonnes of food waste generated each year in the UK; of this, only about 500,000 tonnes currently is treated by anaerobic digestion or composting. We are aware that households near the plant do not have the opportunity to segregate their food waste for kerbside collection yet – we are keen to support the local authority in exploring its viability, and would be delighted to provide a facility to process this. Although there is no restriction in our planning consent for the source of the food waste processed at the plant, about half currently comes from Hampshire from a range of commercial and industrial sources, including supermarkets, local businesses and restaurants.
During the plant’s commissioning (the process by which all aspects of the plant’s operations are stress-tested) we worked very closely with our nearest neighbours at Kennel Farm to investigate odour reports. Various measures were taken to ensure the plant operated in line with both its permit requirements and our own operational standards. So far in 2015, there have been only a handful of odour reports, reported to us across a four day period.
The AD plant is due to be screened by trees on its north perimeter. There are planting windows twice a year, which have previously coincided with other operational tasks and also the possible identification of rare flora on the planting area, which needed to be investigated. It has been agreed by the Liaison Committee that planting would take place in November 2015. Work is underway to prepare the land and ensure it is ready for planting.
There are two products from the anaerobic digestion process; biogas and a nutrient-rich digestate, which displaces the need for petro-chemical derived fertilisers. The AD plant is producing its predicted volume, in cubic metres, of digestate per year. Of this, two thirds goes to the local estate.
Whilst the total land area of the estate would be enough to take all the digestate, the volumes required depend on the use of the land (for example crops or cattle}, crop rotations, Environment Agency permits and other external regulatory restrictions.
It is still our intention to have as much of the digestate used on the local estate as possible. We are building a network of local farmers who can make use of the digestate that goes above the estate’s requirements. The digestate is moved in nurse tankers which are commonly used in agricultural settings to reduce the number of road movements which would otherwise be associated with tractor and trailer movements.
There are two types of traffic movements associated with the AD plant; food waste deliveries and farm use /digestate movements, which coincide with the farming community’s spreading windows twice a year.
We have a very good record of ensuring that the traffic to and from the AD plant complies with both the correct route and the timings restrictions of the planning requirements, with less than 1 % of vehicle movements falling outside these. We have a rigorous traffic management system in place to ensure that individual drivers, haulier companies and waste management companies adhere to the rules, and on the rare occasion when a driver makes a mistake, we investigate and take follow-up action. If a road is closed, the driver sometimes has no option but to follow a diversion. In other cases, we have found that the lorries reported to us were unrelated to the AD plant.
We believe we are, in the main, in compliance with our consent for vehicle movements. According to our data, in the last seven months we have exceeded our permitted levels in two months for food waste vehicle movements, by an average of one vehicle per day in December, and by an average of 1.5 vehicles (three movements) per day in January. We acknowledge this and will work hard to avoid a reoccurrence. The long term average remains well within the consented limit.
As AD is still not widespread in the UK, we understand people may have questions or concerns. We can be reached on Freephone 0800 840 1229 and by email Basingstoke@tamar-energy.com during the week. Last year we held an open day to welcome members of the local community to site and the Plant Manager has also spoken at community group events. Whilst we are not perfect, we work hard to be open with information about the AD plant’s workings and are proud of our record.
Head of Operations
Freephone 0800 840 1229