RESIDENTS living near the site of a proposed anaerobic digester outside Omagh have raised strong objections to the development, planned for a farm beside a busy stretch of the A5 road where several fatal collisions have occurred in recent years.
The proposal, which has been ‘called-in’ for determination by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council’s planning committee, is for a 500KW centralised anaerobic digestion plant on a farm on Doogary Road, adjacent to the Foyle Food Group’s meat factory.
The proposed site of the AD is located close to where two young men, Killian Doherty and Maurice McCloughan, lost their lives in a road traffic collision in December 2016.
Local residents say that this stretch of road continues to be an accident blackspot, with the latest fatal crash, involving two tourists, occurring in September 2018.
Traffic in the area has also increased following the opening of the new Omagh Hospital in 2017 and the relocation of Omagh Integrated Primary School to a new building beside Drumragh College several months ago.
In a letter of objection submitted by one of the residents, it is claimed that “additional large-scale movements of slow moving vehicles would have a serious impact on traffic flow and safety on the A5”.
But many of the people living close to the site of the proposed plant also have serious concerns about the impact it could have on the local environment.
Anaerobic digesters (ADs) use organic waste such as slurry and silage to generate methane gas, which is burned to generate electricity. However, concerns have been raised over the environmental impact of one of the products of these plants.
Digestate, a nutrient-rich substance that can be used as a fertiliser, contains high levels of nitrogen in the form of ammonia. The Department of Agriculture has warned that high levels of ammonia are harmful to senstive habitats and species, as well as human health.
Smell and pollution
Dr Kimberley Allen, who describes herself as the “nearest neighbour” to the proposed development, lives just 65 metres away from the site.
In a letter written to local councillors urging them to reject planning permission “immediately”, the mother-of-two said that all the nearest neighbours were in opposition to the plans and had raised concerns regarding the waste plant, including the potential smell, noise pollution and the “explosion risk”.
In her written objection to the development, she stated that two people had been seriously injured in an explosion at an anaerobic digester in Colwick in Nottingham in September 2017.
Dr Allen has also highlighted to local councillors that the Comptroller and Auditor General, Kieran Donnelly, is launching an inquiry next month into existing anearobic digestion plants across the North.
It will be looking into allegations raised by a recent BBC Radio 4 programme about how these plants are operated and how subsidies are more lucrative in the North than the rest of the UK.
A spokesperson for Fermanagh and Omagh District Council has said this week that the local authority’s planning officials have made a recommendation to refuse planning permission for this development.
The spokesperson added, “The planning application has been ‘called-in’ to be determined by the Planning Committee. No date has been set as additional information has been submitted which has required further consultation before presenting the application to the Planning Committee for determination.”
Despite the objections of the group of residents, the proposed AD plant has received plenty of support from local farmers, the Foyle Food Group and the Ulster Farmers’ Union.
The Foyle Food Group said it “fully supported” the application, adding that its meat factory in Omagh would benefit from the renewable electricity that it produced.
Also giving its support, the UFU said that the diversification of farm business was “an essential part of modern farm business planning”.