Council chiefs postpone biogas restrictions decision

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Plans to drop restrictions on a controversial biogas plant have been stalled by council chiefs.

Greenhags Energy Company want to use agricultural wastes, such as fruit and vegetables, to help them generate gas at their Newton Mearns base.

The company has appealed to the East Renfrewshire Council after being told by the UK Government that their energy must be derived from at least 50 per cent wastes to qualify for funding.

But councillors refused to make a final decision, claiming they weren’t given enough information on the wastes.

It means the company now face an anxious wait until next month’s meeting of the planning applications committee.

Conservative Group leader Stewart Miller said: “I would wonder if the planning department could arrange a continuation of this and arrange a site visit to a plant that has this digestate and we can see it for ourselves.”

The SNP’s Angela Convery added: “I think it’s quite obvious that most of the committee believe that we don’t have enough information. I think a visit to another biogas plant would be beneficial.”

The planning committee gave consent for the facility in 2016 on the basis that only agricultural feedstock, rather than household or commercial waste, could be used to generate gas.

But UK Government rules now state that in order to gain access to renewable heat incentive (RHI) funding, at least half of all energy must be derived from wastes.

Plans to use wheat straw and cattle slurry were rejected in 2016 as it was feared that those items could have a detrimental effect on residents.

If approved, the firm want to use fruit and vegetables, which have been deemed unsuitable for sale, as part of the gas generation process.

A planning statement from Alan Couper Consulting, on behalf of Greenhags Energy Company, said: “Under the government’s proposal to revise the RHI regulations following a recent consultation, it will be necessary for the energy produced by the biomethane plant to be derived from at least 50 per cent wastes and/or residues in order to qualify for the full RHI support payments.

“The plans, as it is currently proposed, would not meet these requirements.

“The plans would need to comply with this aspect of the sustainability criteria in order to qualify for the full RHI support payments and would be unlikely to be viable without the full level of support available.”

If the condition isn’t dropped it could put the future of the plant in doubt. Councillors are expected to visit a similar biogas plant before making a decision next month at the earliest.