A PLAN to build an anaerobic digestion plant in Ramsbottom was unanimously rejected by councillors — after a protest by about 200 people.
A demonstration was staged outside Bury Town Hall before Tuesday’s meeting, where children and adults waved placards and sang songs such as “AD stinks”, “Rammy’s not a dustbin” and “Don’t ruin Rammy”.
All 11 members of the planning committee voted against the plan, which would have seen the plant constructed at Fletcher Bank Quarry, despite council officers being ‘minded to approve’ the proposal.
Protestors were concerned about the potential impact the site, which would have been built by Peel Environmental and run by Tamar Energy, could have on Ramsbottom as a tourist destination, as well as odour and health concerns.
The plant, which would have generated the energy needs of Marshalls quarry at Fletcher Bank, would see food by-products converted into electricity.
After the meeting, a spokesman for the three firms - Peel Environmental, Tamar Energy and Marshalls - said they were “disappointed” at the decision and were “considering their next steps.” They do have the option of lodging an appeal.
The planning meeting had to be moved from the Peel Room to the main council chamber to accommodate up to 120 protestors, and there was standing room only as people crammed in to hear the outcome with more left in the cold outside.
Ramsbottom’s three councillors each spoke out against the plant, as well as a number of councillors on the planning committee, and after each speech the protestors cheered and broke out into loud applause.
When the decision was announced, there was an outbreak of elation as campaigners and residents celebrated their victory.
After the meeting, Cllr Ian Bevan said: “You can tell the strength of feeling from the residents, and we are delighted that it has been rejected. We are pro-AD and recycling, but it was in the wrong place.”
David and Sandy Johnson, of Bank Lane Farm in Shuttleworth, attended the meeting, and they say their home would have been just 50 metres away from the plant.
Mrs Johnson said: “My two kids’ health has been secured tonight. If it had been approved we might have been forced to move out.”
Cllr James Frith, who was not on the planning committee, but attended the meeting, added: “We should never have been here. It is through the hard work and dedication of the residents that victory has been secured tonight.”
Nicole Haydock, joint co-ordinator of Bury Green Party, who submitted documents which questioned the air quality documents submitted by the applicants, said: “We are delighted that Labour members of the planning control committee have listened to our evidence based scientific objection to this planning application.”
In a planning report, council officers had said that the plant, which would have been built on the green belt, would not have been inappropriate, because it would generate the energy needs of Marshalls quarry as well as a surplus which would be used by the National Grid.
During the meeting, Cllr Bevan said that the plant did not demonstrate special circumstances and urged councillors to reject it, highlighting that Peel Brow Primary School would have been around 150 metres away.
He said: “The Greater Manchester Waste Unit advise that only one substantial circumstance exists — namely its proximity to an energy user.”
“This plant will have an unacceptable impact on residents in our town —noise, dust, extra traffic, air pollution, smells and nuisances —all sources of air pollution.”
Cllr David Jones agreed that the plant did not represent special circumstances to build on the green belt.
He said: “For this application to proceed on the green belt and for it to be special circumstances, I would suggest that the electricity generated should be returned to the people of Ramsbottom.”
Keith Owen, of SLR, who compiled the planning report on behalf of Peel Environmental, Tamar Energy and Marshalls, told the meeting that the plant “would not generate an unacceptable impact to residents.”
Research on behalf of the applicants also claimed that the plant would have created 10 full-time jobs once it was operational, and would have represented a £15 million investment into the local economy.
Cllr Robert Hodkinson, who is also the treasurer of Ramsbottom Business Group, raised concerns that the plant could dent the town’s reputation as a tourist destination.
He said: “Ramsbottom has an enviable reputation as a great place to live, and as a tourist destination. Will people still come to Ramsbottom when its reputation is tarnished, and a putrid stench is coming from the AD plant?”
Cllr Tony Cummings, chairman of the planning committee, also hit out at social media users who had called the independence of the committee into question, labelling the rumours as “totally unfounded”, and “cheap and gratuitous”.