ANAEROBIC digestion plants are contributing to one of the worst problems facing Herefordshire, according to a former county council leader.

Several councillors raised concerns over the environmental impact these units are having at cabinet on December 1 while they discussed the county’s future minerals and waste local plan.

Anaerobic digesters use organic material like slurry and silage to produce methane gas which is then burned to produce renewable electricity.

But farmer and former council leader Terry James said there was a lack of awareness about how these biomass systems are actually run.


“To suggest it’s just about waste going in and neighbouring products going to the farms that run these is a nonsense,” the Liberal Democrat group leader said.

“There are large parts of the county now that are growing crops just to feed into biomass units.

“Farms are being rented and bought at substantial distances from the biomass units themselves and the products from that land is being hauled from across the county to feed these biomass boilers.

“The residual material from these units are then transported substantial distances around the county.

“You see it in Hereford where tractors with trailers are going through with stuff to feed biomass units.

“It’s probably one of the worst problems we have in the county.”

Infrastructure and transport cabinet member John Harrington said the cultivation of crops used to feed anaerobic digestion plants was contributing to the county’s phosphate and nitrate river pollution.

“We do have a situation where our biodigesters, that were originally given permission to consume waste, are actually now being fed by land which is deliberately cultivated to grow corn and other crops.

“That is causing us quite a lot of problems with land that used to be pasture land which used to be protected and kept the nitrates locked up. That has now been eroded.

“We are having water erosion because of the type of crops that are being used on inappropriate land because the commercial need is there.

“You can’t blame some farmers and contractors for doing that. Therefore isn’t it beholden of us as an authority to make sure that wording is more robust?”


Conservative group leader and former council leader Jonathan Lester said cabinet had an opportunity to address the problem full on.

“We need to address the phosphates issue. That is a challenge I would put to cabinet. Do they think it sufficiently addresses the issue.

“We have had councillors comment regarding anaerobic digesters and livestock units.

“Absolutely, it’s right to raise that. Is the policy specific enough to address the problem?”

Herefordshire Independents group leader John Hardwick, who is also a farmer, said he fully supported councillor James’ comments.

“I think we’ve got far too many anaerobic digestion units in the council that are basically growing crops to feed them.

“You will find a lot of farmers are opposed to that type of use of AD units.

“It doesn’t do the highways any good either.”

Hendeca consultant Kirsten Berry agreed there had been a lot of anaerobic digestion development over the last five years but she said she didn’t expect there to be much in future.

“They have largely been driven by subsides which are no longer available.

“I would be really surprised if you see that level of AD development going forward.

“I don’t think it’s going to be practicable.”