Northern Ireland

Tyrone green energy plant ordered for removal by council officials

Anaerobic digester
Image caption Anaerobic digesters convert organic material like manure and silage into electricity

Planners have ordered the removal of a green energy plant at the centre of a protracted legal dispute.

Officials at Derry City and Strabane District Council said the anaerobic digester at Bready, County Tyrone, had to come down because it breached planning regulations.

Assured Energy, the company which owns it, has rejected that.

The enforcement order has been appealed, meaning it has no effect until the appeal outcome is decided.

Permission for the plant was granted when planning was the responsibility of the former Department of Environment.

Most planning is now the preserve of councils.

Council officials said checks on the potential environmental impact of the digester ought to have been done before it was approved due to its size.

They have previously confirmed that no such checks took place.

Lucrative subsidies

The plant is 240 metres from the River Foyle, which is an EU protected area.

Anaerobic digesters can attract lucrative subsidies for 20 years, paid for from consumers' electricity bills.

Image caption There are about 70 anaerobic digesters in Northern Ireland, many on farms

They use slurry and silage to create methane gas, which is burned to generate electricity.

The Bready facility is at the centre of a legal wrangle between the farming family on whose land it was developed and the London-based company that paid for it.

The Pollock family intended to run it on the company's behalf for a payment, but walked away amidst concerns about its construction and operation.

They are now suing the firm and are being countersued in return for breach of contract.

Assured Energy said it only got involved after planning permission had been approved.

'Disappointed'

"The original planning application was made by and granted to the landowner and prior to AEL's involvement," it said.

"AEL believes the plant, as constructed, is compliant with the requirements of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and other similar regulatory bodies with whom AEL is in regular contact - as is normal business for a plant of this nature."

It said it was "disappointed in the council's decision", which it has appealed.

The BBC previously reported concerns that the Bready plant was one of a number that had been built either without the necessary environmental checks or in breach of their planning permission.

Checks will now be needed to assess the environmental impact of the facility itself and in areas where the by-product of the process, called digestate, will be spread.

Surveys will also be required on noise, odour and the number of vehicles entering and leaving the site.

Derry City and Strabane District Council said it could not comment on an ongoing case.

Assured Energy LLP owns a number of anaerobic digesters across Northern Ireland.

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