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Acorn Bioenergy £30m anaerobic digester plant bid at Fearn airfield is knocked back by Highland Council

By Hector MacKenzie

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Artist's impression of Acorn Energy's Anaerobic Digestion plant for Green energy at Fearn.
Artist's impression of Acorn Energy's Anaerobic Digestion plant for Green energy at Fearn.

CONTROVERSIAL plans for a multimillion-pound 'green energy' anaerobic digestion plant in Easter Ross have been knocked back by planners.

Acorn Bioenergy planned to build an anaerobic digestion (AD) plant on a 7.5-hectare site at Fearn Airfield, near Balintore, to produce what it calls "clean, green biogas" using crops and by-products from local farms and distilleries.

The bid lodged almost a year ago triggered scores of objections with protesters warning of severe economic, environmental and social impacts and claiming the farming, tourism and hospitality sectors will all affected.

A fireball explosion following a lightning strike at an existing biogas plant in Oxfordshire last month sparked further safety concerns which were echoed by protesters in Ross-shire.

It has now emerged that Highland Council has refused the planning application under delegated powers with an unacceptable risk to aviation safety amongst the reasons cited.

Citing the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 (As Amended) and Planning Etc (Scotland) Act 2006, area planning officer Daffyd Jones says the proposal is contrary to National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) Policy 11 e) Part iv. Highland-wide Local Development Plan 67, as it has not been satisfactorily demonstrated that the development will not have unacceptable risk on aviation safety by virtue of failing to adequately assess the development's risk due to the site's explosive atmospheric conditions, failing to assess the proposal's potential to generate thermal plumesfrom all heat sources across the site, as well as failing to fully assess the proposal's potential to generate building induced turbulence, which pose potential risks to aircraft."

The decision notice states: "Consequently, it has not been demonstrated that the proposal will not have a detrimental impact on an established aviation interests. In that way, the application fails to demonstrate that an adequate buffer zone between the site and a sensitive land use will be in place and is therefore also contrary to NPF4 Policy 12 d) Part iv. 2.

"The proposal is contrary to the decommissioning, site restoration and aftercare requirements of National Planning Framework 4 Policies 11 and 12 and Highland-wide Local Development Plan Policies 67 and 70 by virtue of failing to provide outline proposals for decommissioning the application site's restoration."

The applicant can appeal the decision with Scottish Ministers within three months under Section 47 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997.

READ ALSO: 'We are horrified' - community council reacts to biogas plant plans

Acorn energy lodges bid for biogas plant in Easter Ross

Objectors demand economic and environmental impact assessments on anaerobic digester plant bid

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