A BID to use animal waste to feed a new energy plant has been rejected after it was dismissed as "a lot of greenwash” by a councillor.

The developers of the planned anaerobic digester at Bangley Quarry, north of Haddington, applied to have a condition barring them from using animal by-products (ABPs) lifted after saying they had been approached by local farmers.

But at a virtual meeting of East Lothian Council’s planning committee on Tuesday, concerns were raised over the change of plans for the plant, which saw construction stall during the Covid-19 pandemic.

And committee member Councillor Sue Kempson questioned claims the ABPs would come from local farms, after being told that one named supplier was based near Penicuik in Midlothian.

Councillor Kempson told the committee: “We are being subjected to a lot of greenwash.”

Marc McElhinney, from Greenforty Developments, which is behind the project, said that construction of the plant had been delayed but it was now expected to be operational by the end of next year.

He asked the committee to change conditions attached to its original planning consent, which restricted its annual capacity to 77,500 tonnes and that “no household or commercial food waste or animal by-products shall be transported to or processed within the anaerobic digestion plant”.

Mr McElhinney asked that the capacity be increased to 100,000 tonnes and ABPs be allowed to be used.

He said: “During the last two years, when we had to put construction on hold, we have been approached by local farmers who wanted to supply slurry and manure for the project.”

In return, Mr McElhinney said, they would receive the resulting compost produce by the plant in a “fully circular economy”.

He also told the committee that the plant would go ahead as planned regardless of whether the condition to bar it from using ABPs – which he described as chicken litter, farm manure and cattle slurry – was lifted or not.

The proposals received 15 letters of objections with concerns about odours, additional traffic and leakage of polluted waste from the site.

One objector told the committee: “Animal by-products are toxic waste and should never be transported but should be dealt with in situ.”

Another accused the developer of “playing the system”, asking the committee: “Why would you consider removing conditions put in place to protect the local community?”

Haddington and District Community Council said that there were “good reasons” for the conditions being imposed in the first place and no justification to removing them now.

Ward councillor Craig Hoy told the meeting he believed that had the increased capacity and use of ABPs been considered in the original planning application for the plant, he doubted it would have been given permission.

He said: “I am concerned the developer has taken a two-step approach to getting what they wanted.”

Councillor John McMillan, ward member and the administration’s economic development spokesperson, also had misgivings.

He said: “When I hear the bulk of it [ABPs] is coming from Penicuik, it makes me question the green credentials of the project.”

However, Councillor Norman Hampshire, council leader and planning convenor, backed the plans, telling the committee: “This will deliver a huge benefit to East Lothian, the farming community and the environment.

The committee voted by five votes to four to reject the change to conditions and keep the ban on using ABPs in place.