Proposals for an industrial-scale lagoon of organic fertiliser in East Devon have been given the go-ahead – despite 14 nearby communities banding together to battle the bid.
District council planning chiefs have approved the scheme for a sealed digestate storage facility – with capacity for 7,000 cubic metres of liquid – near Upton Pyne.
The lagoon will be located on a waterlogged site off Rixenford Lane which is owned by the Earl of Iddesleigh.
It is served by a narrow, quiet country lane frequented by cyclists and walkers.
The project will support the operation of the Gorst Biogas Ltd anaerobic digestion plant at Enfield Farm, Clyst St Mary.
Nearby villages and hamlets joined forces to object to the proposals, along with the Devon Campaign to Protect Rural England.
Concern was expressed by residents in and representatives of Upton Pyne; Brampford Speke; Langford; Shute; Efford; Shobrooke; Newton St Cyres; Thorverton; Rewe; Ratcliffe; Poltimore; Huxham; Cowley and Stoke Canon.
Applicant Stuarts Partners Ltd said the scheme supports the sustainability and efficiency of farming operations in the area and would not lead to a noticeable increase in traffic.
Agent Troy Stuart added that the bid will reduce the intensity of vehicle movements from the lagoon to the farm.
East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) Planning Committee approved the application at its June meeting by nine votes to three.
The authority’s development manager Chris Rose recommended the scheme for approval and told members: “The farm on which the site is located is one which is able to receive, and spread, material from Enfield Farm, near Clyst St, Mary, so a key part of the justification of the proposal is that the proposal would enable a reduction in the number of vehicle movements between the host farm and the Enfield Farm.
He added: “It is clear that this proposal has generated considerable interest from local residents and other consultees. However, it is considered that, on balance, and subject to conditions, the proposal is acceptable.”
Local resident Sally Doldorph pleaded with the committee to reject the plans and said: “The state of several hamlets is in your hands today.”
Councillor Roger Cashmore, speaking on behalf of Newton St Cyres Parish Council, added: “Please reject this which only benefits the expansion plant of the AD on the other side of Exeter.
“Residents are angered and fail to grasp while this is even being considered and we have no confidence the conditions can be relied on or enforced.”
And Cllr Fabian King, who represents the Exe Valley ward, added: “I have never received such discontent, upset or anger in Exe Valley that I have over this application. There is no genuine agricultural need for this and there is so much opposition to this.”
Cllr Joe Whibley said it appeared there would be little grounds to defend refusal if it was appealed, but added: “This doesn’t feel right and I completely understand why the residents feel so strongly about this.”
Cllr Philip Skinner said: “What I think the applicant is trying to do is to try and reduce large volumes of traffic in a short window and having it in a much wider window because of the lagoon.
“The amount of movements won’t change whether we accept this or not, but how we deliver the movements over a longer period of time.
“In my opinion, I believe the benefits that will come from this is that the impact is likely to be less in volumes in short periods of time over a longer period than not having the lagoon.”
Cllr Tom Wright said he understood and sympathised with the concerns expressed, but that agriculture is changing and vehicles are much bigger.
He added: “However disruptive movements are, the implications are not to significantly increase those movements, so we have very few grounds to object,”
Cllr David Key said: “I cannot see the problem with this. I feel sorry for the people who live there, but we have to move on in life and this is part and parcel of farming.”
Councillors approved the application with a condition that the digestate can only be used on enterprises owned by the applicant.