ENERGY plant operators have been given the go-ahead to use animal waste to feed it, despite concerns about the smell from local residents.

The developers of the planned anaerobic digester at Bangley Quarry, north of Haddington, appealed to Scottish Ministers after East Lothian Council refused to lift a ban on animal byproducts (ABPs) being used at the site.

Greenforty Developments had claimed they had been approached by local farmers keen to supply “slurry and manure” to the plant in return for the resulting compost in a “fully circular economy”.

However, a condition attached to the original planning permission for the plant banned the use of ABPs.

And when the firm asked the council’s planning committee to remove it, the request was refused, with one councillor dismissing claims that the move would help local farms as “greenwash”.

Now the Scottish Government Reporter has overturned the decision, ruling that there is no evidence to back concerns about the impact on local residents from smell.

In March, Marc McElhinney, from Greenforty Developments, asked the council’s planning committee to change conditions attached to its original planning consent, which restricted its annual capacity to 77,500 tonnes and stated 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.”

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?”

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

However, the Reporter said that both the council’s own public health and environmental protection officer and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency had been satisfied an assessment by the developers “demonstrated there would be no harmful impact on amenity of nearby residential properties”.

They added: “I find little persuasive evidence to raise doubts as to those conclusions and so I am satisfied the proposed development would not lead to odour or air quality issues that would be harmful to amenity.”