Continued Planning Success for Anaerobic Digestion Plant in Cambridgeshire

We have been assisting our client Local Generation Ltd for a number of years to establish and update an Anaerobic Digestion (AD) Plant at their site in Westry, Cambridgeshire. As the technology for AD rapidly evolves, Local Generation are continually assessing their site operations and how the process can be made more efficient and environmentally and commercially beneficial.

AD is the process by which organic waste is biologically treated in the absence of oxygen using naturally occurring micro-organisms to produce biogas which contains principally methane but also a significant proportion of carbon dioxide.

The AD plant was first established in 2009 however Wardell Armstrong has subsequently successfully gained approval for a further 19 planning applications, comprising a combination of full planning applications, Section 73 applications, Section 96a applications and discharges of conditions. The applications comprise a number of alterations and additions to the existing operations including the introduction of a gas to grid plant in 2016 which enables the biogas created as a result of the AD process to be upgraded into biomethane gas and injected back into the gas network for domestic use, reducing the reliance of the UK gas supply on fossil fuels.  A nutrient rich bio-fertiliser is also produced as a by-product which can be used as both a fertiliser and soil improver.

More recently in 2020, Wardell Armstrong obtained planning permission for an increase in the plant capacity to enable up to 120,000 tonnes of waste to be processed annually through the facility. The planning team has also recently successfully gained approval for a replacement reception building as a non-material amendment.

We also provided regular planning advice to Local Generation regarding the use of Permitted Development rights at the site. As the site is a waste management facility it benefits from significant Permitted Development rights and a number of the improvements/alterations required on site can often be completed by virtue of these rights.

Our regulatory support team manage the environmental permitting of the site in line with the Environment Agency’s permitting regime. After preparing the original permit application we have supported Local Generation with a number of permit variations and liaison with the Environment Agency regarding permit compliance.  The planning and regulatory support team work closely together to ensure the permitting and planning at the site are consistent with each other and, wherever possible, to find efficiencies by ensuring supporting documents are appropriate to both planning and permitting requirements.

Our planning team project manage the planning applications for the site and the project team can often include a number of disciplines, dependent upon the scope of the application, including:
· Air Quality, dust and odour;       
· Archaeology and Cultural Heritage;     
· Ecology;
· Flood Risk;     
· Hydrogeology; 
· Landscape and Visual;
· Noise and Vibration;   
· Transport; and
· Arboriculture.

Our technical teams work closely together in order to fully appreciate the potential interactions between the various disciplines.

The AD plant provides an essential facility in Cambridgeshire, with a provider base providing waste arisings both within the region and beyond. The facility promotes a sustainable and efficient approach to resource use and management, ensuring organic waste is diverted from landfill and securing a continued supply of renewable gas to the national grid. We will continue to act as advisors to Local Generation as technology and waste policy evolves.

Local Generation continue to be happy with the work that we provided stating:
“Regulatory control on businesses seems to grow and become more varied and complex at an ever-increasing pace. The support and resources we get from Wardell Armstrong gives us the reassurance that Local Generation comply with these controls. All businesses have their own unique control measures and legislation to adhere to as well as development aspirations. Wardell Armstrong taking the time to understand these has enabled the site to be developed as it has over the past 10 years with the full engagement and support of our regulators and local community”

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