Pipeline plan withdrawn amid fears over trees and waterways

Mepal Anorobic Digester. Picture: Steve Williams.

Mepal Anorobic Digester. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

A gas pipeline to serve a controversial anaerobic digester plant at Mepal has been delayed after Fenland planners demanded more information about how trees are to be protected.

Mepal Anorobic Digester. Picture: Steve Williams.

Mepal Anorobic Digester. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

An application to construct the pipeline, which would link the plant with the national gas grid, has been withdrawn by Keymer Cavendish Ltd, the development consultants for operators Pretoria Energy.

The move comes after Sheila Black, a senior planning officer at Fenland District Council, warned without more information the application would be refused.

She said a full arboricultural report outlining the potential impact the pipeline’s construction could have on protected trees and protected species along its length was submitted.

The Middle Level Commissioners and other internal drainage boards had also raised concerns at the lack of pre-application discussion between themselves and the developers and therefore and were opposing the planning application.

They are concerned about possible adverse affects the pipeline work could have on some of the area’s watercourses including the Forty Foot, Fenton Lode, and Birch Fen Drain.

In a written submission the commissioners state: “The proposal crosses or encroaches in close proximity to the Nightlayer’s Internal Drainage Board’s Drains which serve the urban area of Chatteris and there are concerns that the proposal could adversely affect these systems. For this reason it is unlikely that these works would be recommended for approval.”

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It continues: “Consents for works within, under or over the protected watercourses has not been sought. It should not be assumed that consent will be given by the board/commissioners.”

They were also unhappy with a Flood Risk Assessment submitted as part of the application as it made assertions rather than technical data.

In a strongly worded email Mrs Black told Keymer Cavendish: I would reiterate the due to the lack of information in your submission I am unable to determine your application in a favourable manner.

“It is important that the level of works proposed are clearly outlined, the potential impact that the trenching could have on protected trees and also following a consultation response from the Middle Level Commissioners, which has been sent to your also, the measures taken to ensure protection of important affected watercourses.

“You may wish to consider withdrawing the current submission if you consider that you are unable to provide the necessary information within the target date for determination.”

Edward Keymer, speaking to the Cambs Times, admitted the pipeline was essential to enable the anaerobic digester but said they had not anticipated the issues raised by the drainage boards and that they will be resubmitting the application within the next four to six weeks.