CONTROVERSIAL plans for an anaerobic digestion (AD) plant have been approved – with the chairman of East Lothian Council’s planning committee having the casting vote.

Lengthy discussions surrounding the plans for a plant at Bangley Quarry took place in Haddington Town House on Tuesday morning.

And the 12 members of the committee were split down the middle, with the vote tied at 6-6.

Councillor Norman Hampshire, depute leader of East Lothian Council, told members he had hoped it would not come down to his vote to break the tie and backed planning officials’ recommendation to approve the scheme.

Anaerobic digestion is a process in which micro-organisms break down biodegradable material.

The plant, which is made up of more than a dozen structures, the tallest 15 metres high, is designed to process a variety of feedstocks, such as grass silage, hybrid rye, straw and vegetable processing residues, to produce renewable gas.

The gas would then be injected into the local gas transmission network and available to domestic and industrial end users.

According to applicant GreenForty Development’s gas provision calculations, the plant would be able to supply gas for an equivalent of 5,328.18 homes a year.

A number of sites had been looked at throughout East Lothian for the plant, including Macmerry and Wallyford industrial estates, but various issues had left Bangley Quarry, north of Haddington, as the developer’s chosen location.

The site is owned by Tarmac and quarry operations ceased in 2008, although planning permission remains in place for ongoing mineral extraction until 2042.

Marc McElhinney from the developers said a number of factors had been included, such as access and the availability of feedstocks, when it came to choosing a site.

One of those objecting was David Cockerton, co-owner of nearby Garleton Lodge. He was worried about the potential impact on the luxury bed and breakfast and said: “Nowhere has the net economic benefit been established by either the applicant or the council’s team.

“Both have failed completely to take into consideration the adverse impact of the development on any neighbouring businesses.”

He felt the development was “not an appropriate scale or character for the proposed location”.

Other concerns focused on the number of large vehicles travelling on the A199 and C112 roads. It is anticipated 91 two-way vehicle movements could take place daily, with that figure swelling to more than 130 if the quarry were reactivated.

Councillors agreed to restrict the time delivery vehicles could enter and leave the site to between 7am and 7pm.

It is not the first time that plans have come forward for an anaerobic digestion plant in the county.

Two years ago, plans were submitted for land at Standalane, a few miles south. Those proposals were turned down by councillors and later rejected on appeal.

This time, Mr Hampshire was joined in voting in favour of the plans by Labour colleagues Fiona O’Donnell, Colin McGinn, John McMillan and Andrew Forrest, as well as ward councillor Tom Trotter (SNP). Voting against were Conservatives Jeremy Findlay – who highlighted the proximity of neighbouring properties and the volume of traffic that would be created – Lachlan Bruce, Sue Kempson and Brian Small, as well as SNP pair Stuart Currie and Kenny McLeod.

Mr Hampshire had voted against the plans for Standalane but felt Bangley Quarry was a more suitable location. He said: “I voted against Standalane on the basis the site selection was greenfield, in the middle of the countryside and visible from miles around.”

But this location, he said, could be “hardly [seen] from the road” such was the shape of the land.