Why say No?

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Why say ‘No’?

There will be effects of this development in respect of traffic, emissions, odour, light pollution and noise, as well as effects on ecology and the local and wider landscape.

What are the main issues?
  • This is not the right location for an Anaerobic Digestion Plant; it will damage the rural character of the area
  • It will ruin our cherished views and tranquillity
  • It will wreck our historic landscape, and damage ecology, as well as cause noise and light pollution
  • It will cause traffic chaos, with a huge increase in heavy vehicles on our roads
  • When taking into account the transportation of feedstocks, energy to run the site, and transport to disperse and deliver products, this is NOT GREEN
  • There is a risk of chemical contamination and damage to the environment
  • There is a risk of smell
  • It has no benefit to the local community*

* The maxim of harm vs benefit runs through many of the planning policies and is a major consideration when reviewing an application such as this.

What is an anaerobic digester and who wants to build one?

An anaerobic digester is a chemical plant in which food waste, animal waste and crops such as maize or rye can be turned into methane for use as an energy source. The residue can be spread as fertiliser on fields. The idea is ostensibly ‘green’ but this is now under serious review in farming and ecological circles. Although there are several such plants in the UK, the company wishing to construct it (Acorn Bioenergy Ltd) is a start-up company with no track record in the field. The project is funded by Spanish investors: the fund managers who own an 85% stake in Acorn Bioenergy.

Where will the digester be, and how big is it?

Acorn have applied to build the plant at Hardwick in open countryside in the northern part of Tysoe parish, on a greenfield site, outside the parish’s defined built-up-area in its Neighbourhood Development Plan. This is a rural landscape networked by narrow roads, amid several small villages and farming communities. The area is popular with walkers, riders and cyclists, and a short distance from the Cotswold AONB escarpment which overlooks it. The facility will be built on 8.45 hectares (almost 21 acres) of farmland (currently in food production) and includes five tanks holding methane. Each tank will be an estimated 16.5m high (the height of four double-decker buses) and 34m wide. Acorn proposes to digest over 92,000 tonnes of feedstocks on the site annually. If their application is successful, the plant will take roughly 70 weeks to construct and will be one of the largest in the country.

This proposal runs counter to SDC’s Core Strategies CS.1, CS.2, CS.5, CS.11, CS.12; AS.5; CS.15 and AS.10, and to many aspects of the National Planning Policy Framework. See FAQS for more details.

Location map

©Crown Copyright. Reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey®

Illustration showing the scale of one (of the five) digester tanks compared to double decker buses and an average person. Each digester tank is 16.5 metres tall and 34 metres diameter.

What are the likely traffic implications?

Acorn is imprecise as to where the raw material will come from, and to the relative proportions of animal waste and crop being used. Nevertheless, the inward movement of 92,000 tonnes of raw material from the surrounding area, the export of methane in tankers and the outward transport of digestate will necessitate a vast increase in both agricultural and HGV traffic. This will take place along unclassified roads, unsuited in both width and load-bearing capacity, and through small villages, posing a safety hazard to local traffic, residents and recreational road users. Estimates indicate that there will be annually some 8,000 – 10,000 traffic movements in and out of the proposed site. Moreover, as the local clay soils are unfavourable for growing maize and rye, these crops will need to be imported from further afield, thus creating additional traffic impacts. The main arterial road to be used (the A422) has no adequate junction with the proposed site and contains its own set of hazards for HGVs, notably Sun Rising Hill. There are no suitable alternative routes for large vehicles.

The proposal runs counter to SDC’s Core Strategies CS.1, CS.2, CS.3, CS.11 and CS.26.

Example agricultural tractor/trailer for transporting dry matter, Maize or Grass or dry products
The narrow bridge on the Tysoe road near the proposed site. The road is barely wide enough for two vehicles.

This is the size of tractor that would be used to transport the trailers of feedstock around the country lanes and through our villages. The trailer would be twice as long as the tractor. Even cyclists (of which there are many) would struggle to get past safely.

The Tysoe road from Radway.
Tysoe village centre on a typical Sunday.
All the roads to the villages near the proposed site are this wide. It is often a struggle to pass with two cars.

How safe are anaerobic digesters?

Any chemical process poses some level of risk, and particularly one such as this which, apart from producing methane, can also produce dangerous levels of ammonia and hydrogen sulphide. The liquid digestate, one of the end products, is toxic and held in large tanks. Several incidents at similar plants (including damage, pollution, explosions, death of employees and contamination of the environment) in recent years have caused the Environment Agency in 2019 to report formally on safety issues. This drew attention to problems of seepage into local water courses (the proposed site is adjacent to a natural stream), the presence of ammonia and hydrogen sulphide polluting the atmosphere, and the need for proper maintenance. According to the 2011 census returns, more than 4,000 people live in villages within 4 kilometres of the proposed plant, as well as schools, recreational areas and small businesses. Given the size of the installation and the toxic, volatile and flammable nature of these potential pollutants, there are inevitable questions regarding safety. It is especially worrying that the facility will not be manned 24/7 despite the high level of risk associated with the industrial scale production of methane.

The proposal runs counter to SDC’s Core Strategies CS.1, CS.4, AS.5, AS.10.

Explosion at Oxfordshire recycling plant after lightning strike
Explosion at Oxfordshire recycling plant after lightning strike
Drone footage shows damage sustained after explosion over recycling plant in Oxford
Plant urges people to stay away in wake of Oxfordshire fireball
Explosion at Oxfordshire recycling plant after lightning strike
Aftermath: An eco-friendly power station exploded showering the surrounding area with tonnes of cow dung
Lightning strike at Agrivert AD plant

How will the proposal affect the natural and historic environment?

The proposed site of this industrial plant is at the heart of a rural landscape which has evolved organically over time and reflects the history of the area in its villages and field systems. The deserted medieval village of Hardwick lies nearby, and the surrounding fields have produced artefacts dating back to 4,000 BC. This is an unspoiled landscape which is rich in wildlife and home to a range of threatened farmland birds, notably the Curlew and Barn Owls. Great crested newts are also recorded in the vicinity. The construction of the site will require extensive excavation and ‘back fill’ – as a result of this disturbance during build, as well as the subsequent operation of the plant, the ecology of the immediate area and surrounding fields will be decimated. There will continue to be a wider detrimental impact through noise, traffic movement, airborne contamination, lighting pollution, and potential leakage into water courses throughout the life of the facility. The very fact that the proposed site is next to a natural stream raises serious concerns in the case of any flooding. The bund walls around the concrete constructed digester tanks are only required by law to have the capacity to contain the contents of one digester, and not five – there is high risk of contamination in the case of leakage.

The proposal runs counter to SDC’s Core Strategies CS.1, CS.2, CS.5, CS.6; AS.5; CS.8, CS.9, CS.11 and to many related aspects of the National Planning Policy Framework.

©Crown Copyright. Reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey®

OS Map Footpaths

©Crown Copyright. Reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey®

site overlay satelite
Proposed site plan overlaid onto satellite imagery, showing the nearby farms and rural landscape. It is over twice the size of the Red Horse Vale site (left of image) and dwarfs the other properties and farms.

How will the proposal affect the human environment?

Many of the 4,000 residents in nearby villages and farms are likely to have their quality of life affected by the same risks and pollutants as above. Moreover, the plant will have a significant visual impact from both lower and higher ground and especially from the adjacent AONB and from national footpaths which run through the parish. Any industrial facility of this size will inevitably damage the character and distinctiveness of the locality and be detrimental to those who live there. The existing peace and tranquility of the proposed site is reflected in the large natural burial ground and nature reserve which lies nearby.

The proposal runs counter to SDC’s Core Strategies CS.1, CS.2, CS.5, CS.9, CS.11, CS.12 and CS.26 and to many aspects of the National Planning Policy Framework.

An illustration of how the development will affect the view from the Cotswold AONB at Sun Rising hill, just over 2 kilometres from the proposed site.
An illustration of how the development will affect the view from the Tysoe/Kineton crossroad on the A422, 750 metres from the proposed site.
View 03 Hardwick Barns
An illustration of how the digester tanks will affect the view of the nearest residents in Hardwick Barns, just over 250 metres from the proposed site.
An illustration of how the development will affect the view from the the A422 main Stratford/Banbury road, 250 metres from the proposed site.
An illustration of how the development will look from Herd Hill (the Oxhill/Kineton road), looking towards Edgehill, 750 metres from the proposed site.
An illustration of how the development will affect the view from the Macmillan Way footpath, under The Castle Pub at Edgehill and above the village of Radway, 3 kilometres from the proposed site.
An illustration of how the development will affect the view from the Cotswold AONB, just under 2 kilometres from the proposed site.
An illustration of how the development will affect the view from Westcote, 2.5 kilometres from the proposed site.

Is it a ‘green’ process?

The ‘greenness’ of the plant depends on what is being processed, where it comes from and its impact on land use. Estimates show that, according to expected yields, some 1,600 hectares (c. 3,500 acres) of land would need to be taken out of food/fodder production for the plant to process its predicted 92,000 tonnes annually. Only a proportion of this can be derived locally and given annual crop rotation, may need to be supplemented from a wider area. It is difficult to argue the case for ‘greenness’ given that the amount of resulting methane that can be entered into the national grid needs to be balanced against other factors. These include (a) the need to use land for generating food rather than digester material, (b) the negative impact of increased fossil-burning traffic locally and regionally for importing and exporting materials, and (c) the threat of pollutants from the site itself. In addition, 20% of the gas produced will be required to run the plant, as well as fuel those site-owned vehicles which run on methane.

The proposal runs counter to SDC’s Core Strategies CS.2 and CS.3.

Who will benefit from the proposed AD?

The construction phase is scheduled to last for roughly 70 weeks, with some benefit to the local economy from the suggested 100 site workers involved. However, whoever constructs this plant will have a workforce that they will simply move to site. Any advantages here must be balanced against the volume of construction traffic, congestion, pollution and highway damage.

When operational, the plant will use only 5 personnel with minimal opportunity for local employment. Most nearby farms have their own field manuring methods and demand for the digestate will be small, requiring it to be exported further afield, thus exacerbating traffic issues.

The financial profits from the operation will benefit Acorn’s Spanish investors.

Tysoe’s benefits will be in the form of a wrecked landscape, noise and light pollution, risk of chemical contamination, ruined views and tranquillity, and damaged ecology and traffic chaos.

Planning policies

This proposal breaches many of the planning policies designed to protect the character and rural nature of our area, such as the Stratford-Upon-Avon planning framework – the Core Strategy.

The following links can tell you more:

National Planning Policy Framework, NPPF 2021

Stratford-on-Avon District Core Strategy 2011-2031

Tysoe Neighbourhood Plan

Kineton Neighbourhood Plan

Tysoe Fact Sheet

Evenley Fact Sheet

Want to know more?

We have been working tirelessly putting together facts about the proposal, so you can understand more about the anaerobic digester and how it will affect the local area.

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