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A GREEN MSP has called on Fife Council to “reject” proposals for an environmentally friendly bioenergy project in Cowdenbeath.
Mark Ruskell, of the Scottish Greens, said local people had suffered enough through the unplanned flaring from Mossmorran, just a few miles away, and the planning application from Graham’s Dairy for a low carbon heat project at Glenfield would add to their problems.
The company employs 150 people in Cowdenbeath and outlined their “innovative” plans in the summer to turn waste from cheese making into gas and heat but they’ve been met by 341 objections, with locals concerned about smell, noise, drainage and air quality. There have also been seven letters of support.
Environmental watchdog Sepa has also objected, citing a lack of information, and pointed out to the council that the bioenergy plant would be “in close proximity to a significant number of houses, businesses and other land uses” and that “Cowdenbeath has been significantly impacted over the years by the flaring at Mossmorran”.
It added: “We highlight that the perceptions of such a community, already sensitised to environmental disruption, ought to be considered in the round.”
Sepa recommended that Graham’s withdraw the application to allow further assessments to be completed to inform an updated site design.
Mr Ruskell went one step further and said: “The site has been the source of a number of complaints about noise in recent years, and a major development so close to houses would only intensify that issue.
“As the Sepa report notes too, the ongoing disruption from Mossmorran has compounded issues for the local community.
“I would urge Fife Council to take on board Sepa’s concerns and reject this development.
“I hope the applicants will then work with the council and Sepa to find a new location away from residential areas and closer to the sources of agricultural waste.”
He added: “Anaerobic digestors have an important role to play in reducing our climate change emissions from farming and food production, but they need to be in the right place.
“This report quite rightly highlights that the edge of a housing area in Cowdenbeath is not the right location for a facility like this.”
In a first for the Scottish dairy industry, Graham’s low carbon heat plan is to turn the whey left over from cheese making into bioenergy.
The residue would go in an anaerobic digestion plant, similar to one the council have at the recycling centre near Dunfermline that’s fed food scraps and garden waste from the brown bins, and produce gas that would fuel a combined heat and power turbine at the site.
As well as providing energy for the dairy, the company said the project would benefit the community through a 20 per cent reduction in HGV traffic and fewer emissions from the site.
When the project was outlined in June the managing director, Robert Graham, said it “will mark a step change in investment within the dairy sector in zero carbon innovation, infrastructure and skills development to accelerate climate adaptation within industry”.
While the application is still to be determined by the central and west planning committee, Brian Hill, an environmental health officer with the council’s public protection team, said he had “reservations over the amount of new noise sources that will be introduced, and the amount of mitigation required to protect residential amenity”.
He wrote: “There are ongoing complaints regarding noise associated with this site, and I am mindful that the introduction of more noise generating equipment may increase the probability of further complaints.”
A spokesperson from Graham’s Dairy told the Times: “ We will continue to work with Fife Council to address consultation responses on the application.
“As Cowdenbeath’s largest private sector employer, we remain committed to decarbonising the Glenfield site through innovative solutions, which will further safeguard and create local jobs.”