Home   News   Article

Fearn £36m Acorn Energy biogas plant appeal 'will need environmental impact assessment'

By Hector MacKenzie

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!
An artist's impression of how the plant would look.
An artist's impression of how the plant would look.

THE company appealing Highland Council's knock-back of a controversial £36m Easter Ross biogas plant will be obliged to produce an environmental impact assessment if it wishes to move forward, it's understood.

Acorn Bioenergy's bid for a plant near Fearn that could become the first of several to be developed in the north of Scotland attracted a flood of objections flagging safety concerns, adverse environmental and social impacts and claiming the farming, tourism and hospitality sectors would all affected.

Highland Council planners refused permission under delegated powers back in November citing an unacceptable risk to aviation safety among various other reasons.

But Acorn appealed to the Scottish Government arguing that the anaerobic digestion plant that would produce biomethane and biogenic carbon aligns with the country's net-zero aspirations.

That left the bid for the 7.5-hectare site in the hands of the Scottish Government Reporter with Acorn arguing that biomethane produced at the sites using crops and by-products from local farms would be added to Scotland’s gas grid to heat homes, help local industry to decarbonise, power heavy goods vehicles, and contribute to overall greater UK energy security.

One of the major concerns of objectors was the fact that a full environmental impact assessment for such a significant development wasn't required.

However the Ross-shire Journal, sister paper to the Northern Times, has learned that the reporter, on behalf of Scottish Ministers, has now formally directed that this development proposal will require environmental impact assessment (EIA).

That could be a very costly and time-consuming process for the company whose plans have already been delayed.

Objectors are being told they will receive a copy of that direction shortly.

The applicant has 21 days from the date of the direction to confirm that it will produce an EIA report.

If it fails to do so, the reporter will be under no obligation to consider the appeal further. If an EIA report is submitted, there is a formal consultation and notification process to go through before the reporter can determine the proposal. Those with an interest will have the ability to comment further at that stage.

Contacted for comment, a spokesman for Acorn Bioenergy said: “We are currently in the middle of the appeal process following the appointment of the Scottish Government Reporter.

“The Reporter is asking a number of questions in relation to the plans for the Fearn site, which Acorn is responding to fully.We are confident that the Reporter will reach their own conclusion based on the information in front of them.”

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More