A plan to build a “massive” anaerobic digester (AD) in the Herefordshire countryside has drawn more than 100 objections, mostly over its likely environmental and transport impact.

The proposal, for Whitwick Manor farm off the A417 northwest of Newtown, was put forward by STL Energy, which says it is working on the project with Avara Foods, one of the area’s largest poultry producers.

It says using up to 100,000 tonnes of poultry manure a year as a feed for the AD plant would provide an alternative means of disposal that would prevent it getting into the county’s rivers, claimed as one of the causes of their poor current ecological state.


But environmental campaigners at Fish Legal claim that the plant could itself cause pollution of nearby watercourses, and that the applicants had not properly considered this as the law requires.

The Rivers Wye and Lugg are both designated sites of special scientific interest (SSSI’s) and together form a special area of conservation (SAC).

Justin Neal, a solicitor at Fish Legal, said: “If the applicant and Avara Foods did indeed wish to resolve the problem of phosphate pollution in the catchment of the Wye and its tributaries, siting this unit in the river catchment is unacceptable and it should be located as far away from the catchment and the rivers that feed into the Wye as possible.”

Yarkhill Parish Council said a public meeting it organised last month “was one of the most highly attended of recent years”.

But while “the general mood was one of profound concern”, this was mostly over the likely “significant rise” in traffic to and from the “massive” plant.

It expressed further concern that the large numbers of lorries transferring manure between poultry farms and the plant “risked becoming virus spreaders” given the current prevalence of avian ‘flu.

Locals would suffer all the downsides of having on their doorstep a facility offering “no local community benefit whatsoever”, it added.

Welsh Water submitted a “holding objection” until it had been provided with information on the plant’s likely water consumption.

However national regulator the Environment Agency said it had “no objections at this time” to the proposal, though it put forward an eight-strong list of requirements of it.

Herefordshire Council’s own environmental health officer’s sole remark addressed how existing “unexpected contamination” should be dealt with if discovered at the site.

Commenting on the plan closed last week. It is expected to be decided on by county planners by the end of the year.