Veolia’s proposal for a new anaerobic digestion facility and waste transfer station near Alton has been given the go-ahead despite neighbours arguing it was not needed. 

The waste transfer site would have a capacity of 20,000 tons per annum, while the anaerobic digestion facility would have a capacity of 50,000 tons per annum.

Located to the south of the A31 and to the east of Holybourne and Alton, the Alton materials recovery facility alongside the waste transfer station will be the site of the new anaerobic digester.

In 2020, Veolia scrapped plans for an incinerator in the same location and decided to pull the project following a 'strategic review'.

Hampshire County Council’s regulatory committee agreed to the recommendation to grant permission for the development that will include partial demolition and re-use of the existing building and infrastructure at the Alton materials recovery facility.

Forty-eight people objected, saying there was no need in the area for a new digestion facility and fearing the future impact on the environment as a result of air and water pollution.

Mark Weldon from the No Wey Incinerator campaign said: “A large number of residents have submitted objections for this application. Many of those objections made the same points.

“There are already four food waste anaerobic digestion sites in Hampshire. Another is planned for Three Maids Hill between the A272 and A34 in Winchester. Winchester has a much larger concentration of population and therefore is a very reasonable application.

“So is a sixth anaerobic digester really required? No special needs for it have been given, and the suitability of the site is not justified. There is no guarantee the increase in food waste, which is currently very little in Hampshire, will amount to 50,000 tons for this facility.

“It would be wrong to approve this planning application.”

A letter from Will Butler, read by Mr Weldon, said: “I’m the fourth generation of the owner of the Hawbridge farmland. My home and business are situated 600 metres from the proposed site.

“I’m here to talk about the devastating impact on my rural enterprise and on many other rural enterprises in the local area. We run a venue for weddings and events. We are directly downwind of the waste site and potentially emissions and smells that would be released from this proposal site."

Currently the site is occupied by the existing materials recovery facility and waste transfer station, which is permitted to process up to 125,000 tons of waste per annum.

The works comprise the demolition of part of the existing building and the provision of a waste reception, a pre-treatment and odour abatement facility, a pasteurisation plant, anaerobic digestion tanks and buffering tanks, a gas treatment facility, combined heat and power units, and an emergency flare.

The anaerobic digestion facility would be fuelled with food and other organic waste arriving via direct delivery and bulked from transfer stations from within Hampshire.

Organic waste will be converted to provide biomethane gas primarily for export into the local gas distribution network. After the process, a by-product called 'digestates' is produced, which can be used as fertiliser.

A below-ground pipe connecting the anaerobic digestion facility to the local gas main would be constructed, along with a kiosk containing apparatus for connection into an existing gas main that runs through the eastern portion of the site.

There will be a below-ground connection to the local gas distribution network. No restrictions on the hours of operation will be imposed on the existing facility due to the nature of the anaerobic digestion process.

Staff will be present on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Overnight there will be a maximum of two staff on site, and the applicants have stated that there will be a need for only minimal low-level lighting that movement sensors will control.

Construction is anticipated to take approximately 18 months, with the timing dependent on the construction and commissioning of the new materials recovery facility at Chickenhall Lane. Construction will take place from 7am to 7pm, Monday to Saturday.