Green Belt row over energy bid

Ed Cattigan chief operating officer from Farmgen at a public consultation event at Dryholme Farm Silloth
Ed Cattigan chief operating officer from Farmgen at a public consultation event at Dryholme Farm Silloth
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GROUND-breaking plans to build a new £3m energy plant in the middle of the Green Belt have fallen foul of local councillors.

Blackpool-based company Farmgen is investing £30m to create the biggest anaerobic digester (AD) expansion programme in the UK, and has earmarked land near Kirkham Prison for its third site.

AD plants break down biodegradable materials – such as crops – and turn them into energy.

But Freckleton Parish Council has said describing the AD as a source of renewable energy is “in no way a material consideration” to overcome the fact they believe the development is inappropriate in the Green Belt.

They have said they “strongly object” to Farmgen’s proposals for the land at Cooper House Farm, on Kirkham Road, north of the bypass in Freckleton.

The parish council believe the AD, which could provide up to 2MW of electricity – enough to run 2,000 average households – would “adversely impact on the openness of the Green Belt”.

Farmgen hope a unique project with Kirkham Prison will see the Cooper House Farm AD plant supply the prison’s needs using crops grown by inmates.

Freckleton Parish Council has said “it is not sustainable to divert food crops, including grass which is part of the food chain, at a time of world food shortages”, but Farmgen moved to alleviate the council’s concerns.

Ed Cattigan, the firm’s chief operating officer, said: “We don’t believe anaerobic digestion is industrial development, it is an agricultural process using standard farming techniques. This will not be an industrial site.

“It is farm diversification, growing crops to produce energy and helping the rural economy.

“The operation is unobtrusive and will not alter the rural nature of the area.

“We understand that the site is in the Green Belt, but that is mitigated by the special circumstances for development in Green Belt areas.

“Farmgen will be supplying heat and electricity to Kirkham Prison, which is also in the Green Belt and we have chosen the closest site to the prison.”

Fylde Council planners, who will ultimately decide the application, have also received an objection from the Environment Agency.

But Mr Cattigan said the company would overcome their objection by carrying out a full survey on Great Crested Newts in the area and working with ecologists before beginning construction.