Controversial digester plant expansion gets go-ahead

THE controversial expansion of a digester plant close to the river Finn has been granted permission by An Bord Pleanála.
Campaigners opposed to the development brought their fight to the planning body in 2019 and after lengthy consideration it has been given the green light.
Glenmore Generation Limited sought permission to build three new digesters at its plant at Aghaveagh, Ballybofey which will process alternative feed stocks and produce renewable energy and fertiliser.
Appeals were lodged by Glenmore Action Group and Glenmore Rivers, a tourist-based private fishery located on the Finn.
In their submission Glenmore Action Group outlined how they feared the development would have a serious detrimental impact on their day-to-day lives. Their concerns centred on the odour, the noise, the traffic and the risk of pollution they say will emanate from the Glenmore plant once the extension is operational. They feared the addition of three more digesters would increase the risk of leaks into the nearby river and streams. They claimed the site was not suitable for the development and said the increased traffic from the plant was causing congestion in the Twin Towns.
They group also felt that the voice of the community had been ignored by Donegal County Council.
Glenmore Rivers argued that the development would jeopardize the river, which is internationally recognised for the quality of its fishing. The extension would lead to the plant becoming 100 metres closer to the River Finn. They raised questions about how the waste from the plant would be disposed of and worried about potential for a spill. They claimed there was inadequate consultation and requested an oral hearing with An Bord Pleanála.
In response the applicant argued that drainage and water pollution controls have been adequately designed in acknowledgement of the sensitivity of the site in relation to the proximity to the river.
They said further information supplied addressed all traffic concerns and that a noise survey showed that the plant was in compliance with its EPA licence limit values.
In relation to lack of consultation the company said they undertook a number of pre-planning consultation activities including community consultation and pre-planning with the council.
They argued that reports they supplied confirm that although the plant would be 100 metres closer to the river no potentially significant environmental harm would arise that could not be appropriately mitigated against. They said their Environmental Impact Assessment report demonstrated no serious injury to residential amenity would arise.
A submission was received from The Loughs Agency that said further information was needed on the proposed area for the disposal of digestate which they say was not clearly laid out.
When assessing the application An Bord Pleanála raised concerns about the impact of the development on biodiversity, water, air quality and odour, traffic, noise and vibrations, and visual impacts but acknowledged the mitigation measures supplied.
“There are potential positive impacts for employment opportunities and economic activities in the region,” the report stated.
“Impacts arising from noise, odour, traffic, and construction will be mitigated by a Construction Management Plan including traffic management measures. There will be no negative impacts subject to mitigation measures outlined or otherwise addressed by condition.
“In conclusion, having regard to the above identified significant effects, I am satisfied that subject to mitigation measures proposed the proposed project would not have any
unacceptable direct or indirect impacts on the environment.”
The application was granted with 17 conditions. One of the conditions was that the proposed office extension be ommitted due to a lack of detail on the additional effluent to be generated by the extension and the capacity of the existing tank infrastructure.
A maximum of 90,000 tonnes per annum of raw materials can be treated in the anaerobic digesters and a maximum of 20 tonnes of biogas should be stored on the site at any given time.
All environmental mitigation measures must be complied with and the digestate generated by the plant must be disposed of by spreading on land, agreed in writing with the Council.
Limits on when site development and building works can be carried out were introduced. These works can only be carried out between 8am and 7pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 2pm on Saturdays and not at all on Sundays or bank holidays.

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