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Anaerobic digester to be approved within historic Scarva Demesne

An anaerobic digestion plant run on slurry and silage is set to be approved within the grounds of the historic Scarva Demesne.

The proposal would see the construction of a combined heat and power plant just 70 metres from the stately Scarvagh House.

Plans for the development were submitted last June to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s planning officials for consideration.

And now they are recommending that the plant – located about 400 metres from Newry Canal, which passes through the village – be allowed to proceed.

The application – in the name of United Renewables Ltd – is contained on the scheme of delegation which goes out to councillors.

The professional opinion is for ‘approval’.

The development sits within the demesne, which runs the length of the tiny village, and it has been estimated it would take 16,000 tonnes of digestate a year.

It would consist of a ‘chip unit’, a gas flare stack, three silos and digestion tanks. The proposal would require the construction of retaining walls and associated site works, including a new access and sub-station.

It is located 70 metres to the north-west of 31 Old Mill Road – the address of Scarvagh House, which lies within the famous demesne, the new venue of the Northern Ireland Countrysports Fair which sits on the border of Counties Armagh and Down.

The original house dates back almost 300 years and was reportedly built in 1717 by Myles Reilly. It has been in the hands of the Buller family for many years and also features a dressage yard and outbuildings close by the main stately home.

It is in front of Scarvagh House that the main platform proceedings are held each year for the 13th of July demonstration organised by the Royal Black Institution. Within the demesne, which is listed on the DoE ‘Register of Parks, Gardens and Demesnes of Special Historic Interest’, the Sham Fight is held annually, which draws tens of thousands from all over for the big day.

As the bands and Sir Knights of the Royal Black Preceptories parade through Scarva Demesne, they do so past a Spanish chestnut tree, which is where King William III is recorded as having pitched his tent and tethered his horse in June 1690, en route to the Battle of the Boyne.

Given the historic and importance therefore of the setting of the proposed development, a number of surveys and reports have been compiled prior to decisions and opinions being made.

These have include a bat survey and an archaeological impact assessment.

The latter states: “The proposed anaerobic digester will receive slurry and grass silage to produce electricity and heat.”

It notes that the site “lies within a highly sensitive archaeological and historical landscape”. But having given attention to the various historic features, is assesses the impact to the site of Scarvagh House itself as “intermediate” and additionally states: “Proposed mitigation measures involve tree planting to the north of the development to further offset any visual impact.”

According to a traffic study compiled, the development would take up about three acres of a four acre site adjacent to the existing farm buildings. It says the “majority of the feedstock will be sourced from the surrounding land” and transported to the digester using “internal farm roadways”. This would “significantly reduce public road transport for the project”.

Having been furnished with answers in relation to the development and the proposals regarding the feeding of the site, Transport NI says it had been demonstrated that the “proposal is policy compliant with transport and traffic policy and guidelines” and, as such, it has “no objections”.

The site for the combined heat and power plant has been described on the original application as vacant disused farm lands.

It was expected that the development would employ three people, two of them new positions.

The applicant – United Renewables Ltd – also last year submitted similar plans for combined heat and power plants at Lisburn and at Dromara in County Down.

The opinion is for the development to be approved. But it could still be referred to the next sitting of the planning and regulatory services committee for further consideration if a councillor makes such a request before 5pm next Thursday, May 19.

Picture for illustration purposes only

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