TWO of the town’s councillors have called for a controversial anaerobic digester to be closed after parts of the town were effected by “foul odours”.

Hampshire County Council’s Stephen Reid, who represents Basingstoke South West, and Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s Dan Putty, who represents Hatch Warren and Beggarwood, have joined growing calls from residents for the plagued plant, near Farleigh Wallop, to be shut down.

Cllr Reid has told the Gazette that he wants the plant to be shut down by the Environment Agency (EA) “so residents can be protected from the odour pollution that it is causing across residential areas”.

Cllr Putty added that whilst walking around the area, the smells have progressively got worse, and that he and residents are at “the end of (their) tethers”.

The EA confirmed that an audit will be carried out tomorrow (February 14).

Speaking last week, he added: “Reports of odour pollution have been increasing.

“The operators have installed a new bio-filter and everyone hoped that when it became fully effective, it would improve the situation. If anything the problem has got worse, and the number of complaints about the stench have increased.”

In an appeal for the EA to temporarily close the plant, Cllr Reid said that last week the smell was particularly bad.

On Thursday, February 6, much of Hatch Warren and Beggarwood was affected for many hours.

“In other words, an area containing hundreds of homes was affected, and for a sustained period of time,” he continued.

“The smell is most unpleasant: like rotting vegetables and gas. It is not an agricultural smell at all.

“The Environment Agency is now suggesting that the new bio filter has not been installed correctly. I find that troubling, as the operators had said that they use this type of filter in other installations and are familiar with it. That leads me to worry that there could be other faults in the design or build at the Digester site.

“To me the obvious and correct action to take is to shut it down, audit its design and build, take corrective action and then re-open. It is unfair to ask local residents to live with this problem whilst there is no confidence that it can be eliminated.

“The only people who can impose that sanction are the Environment Agency and I call on them to act decisively.

“From my perspective as a Councillor I observe a plant that is causing distress to a wide community, where the operators have not been able to identify a solution and I have to say on behalf of my residents ‘enough is enough’.”

The plant, which opened in 2013 and run by Tamar Renewable Power, was taken over by Biogen in 2018.

Last year, permission was granted for a scheme to build a screen to help reduce noise and odour pollution.

However, according to Cllr Putty, the issues are urgent.

“The whole area has been hit,” he told the Gazette. “The operators really should have known better. When it was built I was told that everything would be sealed. There would be no odour coming out of the plant. But here we are having to put up with it.

“It smells as if the sewer is just next to me. I am very much with Stephen Reid that something has to happen.

“I am at the end of my tether with that. We cannot go on like this.”

A spokesperson for the EA said: “The Environment Agency is aware of the issue at Farleigh Wallop and is focused on ensuring that Biogen is doing everything it can to minimise odours from the site.

“We are only able to revoke or suspend permits where we consider that the operation poses a serious risk to the environment or human health and all other ways to reduce the odour have been exhausted.

"We also have to consider the Regulators Code of Conduct, which encourages us to work with businesses to achieve compliance in the first instance.

“Biogen has carried out various engineering works aimed at preventing odour emanating from the facility. An audit of these works and other technical aspects of the site is due to be carried out by the Environment Agency on 14 February.”