Mid Wales

Brecon Beacons green energy plant goes ahead after planning row

The Jones family from Talgarth, near Brecon
Image caption The Jones family submitted an application with Brecon Beacons National Park Authority in September 2007

A controversial green energy plant in the Brecon Beacons is finally being built following a long-running battle with national park planners.

Farming brothers Paul and Gary Jones, from Talgarth, Powys, are investing £3m in an anaerobic digester to turn waste from an abattoir into energy.

The plant has now been granted a permit by Environment Agency Wales.

The agency said the scheme would not pose a significant risk to local residents' health or the environment.

The energy will be sold to the National Grid and help power the farm.

Brecon Beacons National Park Authority lost a High Court challenge over the plant in 2010.

The authority said at the time its challenge was not undertaken lightly because it believed the anaerobic digester was the first on this scale to be approved in any UK national park under farm diversification policies.

It is being built on the Joneses 600-acre (243 hectares) beef and arable farm, and will be fed with maize and waste from the St Merryn Meat abattoir in Merthyr Tydfil.

Two digester tanks have already been installed and a further two will be working by the end of the year.

The plant will generate 500 kW of electricity as well as compost.

'Exciting time'

Paul Jones said the family had been looking at the technology for some time and was delighted to have secured funding to make the project possible.

"We've been looking into diversifying for quite a while now so it's an exciting time for us to see the plant taking shape," he said.

But Mr Jones said the planning row had cost the family financially.

The application was to have cost about £10,000, but eventually set the family back more than £150,000 following all the problems.

The family also lost out on a £690,000 Welsh government grant because of the setbacks, Mr Jones said.

A planning application for the diversification project was submitted to the park authority in September 2007.

It was awarded permission in 2008, but that was withdrawn the following year.

High Court challenge

The Joneses appealed against the decision and a subsequent public inquiry by a Welsh government planning inspector ruled in the family's favour.

The park authority then lodged a High Court challenge in 2010, but failed in its bid.

Environment Agency Wales said it had carried out a "rigorous investigation" into the plant over the past 12 months.

It said it had used the most up-to-date scientific evidence and received specialist advice on health matters.

The agency added: "Having concluded this work, we have decided to grant them an environmental permit to operate an anaerobic digestion facility with energy recovery in Talgarth, as we are satisfied the proposed facility will not pose a significant risk to the heath of local residents or to the environment."

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