Colchester: Campaigners fight plans for ‘giant compost factory’

CAMPAIGNERS are fighting plans to build one of the largest food and waste composting plants in the country on a former airfield near Colchester.

An application has been submitted to Essex County Council to build the factory, which would turn organic, commercial and agricultural waste into compost, at Birch Airfield in Blind Lane.

A campaign group has said the plans are “wholly inappropriate” for the area and its impact on rural communities would be “wide-spread”.

Jonathan Compton, campaign organiser, said: “This will be a giant factory with a footprint nearly two-thirds the size of the new Sainsbury’s in Stanway – it will be the largest building within four miles to the north and considerably further in other directions.

“It’s an unsuitable site because it’s one of the highest points in the area, overlooking Messing, Coggeshall and Kelvedon, and visible for many miles.

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“A huge concern is the proposal for more than 3,000 inbound heavy lorry movements a year, each truck carrying between six and 22 tonnes of waste, which would damage verges, drop litter and wear out the roads.

“Access to the site would be down the B1022, Maldon Road, which is far too narrow.

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“Rubbish is a certain as the plans refer to the need to transport significant tonnages of plastic and other non-degradable materials away from the site to put into landfill.”

The planning application has been put forward by Birch Airfield Composting Ltd which has been producing compost on the site since 2002.

The new factory, described as an anaerobic digestion and in-vessel composting facility, would produce a methane-rich biogas which would provide the plant with renewable energy.

The developers say that all waste would be delivered in enclosed vehicles and the composting process would take place “within buildings under negative air pressure” to minimise odours, dust and litter.

They added that the plans represented “a sustainable method of waste management” and a means of “reducing carbon emissions and generating renewable electricity”.

The proposed hours of operation for the site would be from 7am to 6.30pm Monday to Friday, 7am to 1am on Saturdays and 6.30am to 6.30pm on Sundays and Bank Holidays.

The campaigners say that the site will have a negative impact on many surrounding towns and villages including Birch, Layer Marney, Layer Breton, Messing, Copford, Easthorpe, Tiptree, Heckfordbridge, Stanway and Maldon.

Essex County Council has stated that two new processing plants for food and organic waste are needed, one for the north of the county and one for the south.

People have until Thursday March 10 to comment on the application and can do so by emailing or by post to Paul Calder, Minerals and Waste Planning, Environmental Planning, County Hall, Chelmsford, CM1 1QH.

The plans can be viewed on Colchester Borough Council’s website by searching the planning applications for ‘Birch Airfield’.

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