DAIRY FARMERS are up in arms about the proposed construction of an incinerator at Killoch, near Ochiltree, in East Ayrshire.

Plans are underway for a new energy-from-waste facility to be built on the doorstep of one of Scotland’s biggest dairy farming regions, with a view to burning 166,000 tonnes of waste annually.

Farmers in the area told The SF that they weren’t properly consulted about its construction and share concerns that by-products from the plant could pose a threat to the surrounding land, livestock, wildlife and villages, yet they fear the project will go through regardless.

Adam and Caroline Montgomerie who farm at Lessnessock along the road form the proposed site, were exploring making the move to organic milk production, but say that the new incinerator would go against organic principles entirely: “How can we guarantee that waste material isn’t going to end up in the surrounding land and rivers? Having a giant polluter erected in the middle of a big dairying region isn’t exactly the green image we are trying so hard to promote to the public.”

Years ago, The Montgomeries along with other dairy farmers in the region were blocked from building wind turbines yet planning permission for a “greenhouse gas emitting waste plant has sailed through the process”.

“We have changed our farming practices in line with government suggestions to lower our carbon footprint – our water margins are all fenced off, we are carrying out conservation grazing and looking at ways to boost biodiversity,” they continued. “Why are farmers constantly taking the flack for our carbon emissions when big companies are allowed to progress with plans which could threaten our carbon targets and impact on local wildlife. The Scottish Government should be getting supermarkets and manufacturers to look at reducing waste by exploring plastic alternatives, not feeding fuel to the fire by building new incinerators across the country.”

Another local dairy farmer Jim Watson of High Tarbeg shared their concerns: “There are no plans for this site to give back to the local community, this is a profit exercise and to keep it turning over there needs to be a constant supply of waste and it is going to be dumped on our doorstep.

“This waste site is going to devalue land, farms, and houses in the area, but I'm most concerned about the likely emissions and how it could impact the health of future generations. I have a son and grandson who might decide they don’t want to carry on farming.

“The surrounding rural villages do not have the infrastructure to cope with the increased volume of traffic.”

The SF was told that there will be 104 HGV movements to and from the proposed development during the period 07.00 to 18.00 on weekdays.

Mr Watson continued: “This lorry route includes the conservation village of Ochiltree – doesn’t quite add up sticking an incinerator within a mile and a half of it.”

NFUS’ regional manager for Ayrshire, Christine Cuthbertson, explained that the incinerator would have to run 24/7, 365 days a year and would need to be “constantly fed with waste”.

“The plant intends to burn 166,000 tonnes of waste a year and since the proximity principle was removed, this means waste could be coming in from anywhere,” said Mrs Cuthbertson. “By moving forward with incineration plans, this doesn’t address the real issues of cutting waste and increasing recycling, it could on the other hand drive more rubbish in the area to feed this huge, hungry system.”

She added that the location of the site might be designated as being a brownfield site but pointed out that the vicinity was green: “It is going to be in the middle of green fields and one of the biggest dairying areas in Scotland.

“Since the mines were closed in Ayrshire over the 30 years ago this areas has become greener and cleaner, is it the right approach to industrialise it again?”

Barr Environmental who will manage the new facility say that it offers a local solution for the management of non-recyclable waste to avoid landfill disposal and in the process will create ‘dozens of new jobs for local people’. Managing Director Gavin Ramsey commented: “The facility will help East Ayrshire to deliver on the Scottish Government’s landfill diversion targets, which aim to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill to just 5% by 2025.”

The type of technology which will be used in the incinerator is known as a moving grate. Mr Ramsey explained that the new technology will ‘allow us to meet more stringent emissions standards while treating a greater amount of non-recyclable waste.’: “Our new application proposes to use the same tried and tested technology as in the vast majority of these facilities around the world and will be tightly regulated by SEPA,” he continued. “We will conduct continuous, independently verified and publicly available monitoring to provide additional reassurance and we have also committed to additional voluntary monitoring at local farms.”

There are currently no facilities in Scotland for recycling fly ash generated by the incinerator. He added that the fly ash may be transported to England for treatment or disposed of using landfill facilities which have a hazardous waste cell.

The Scottish Greens oppose the construction of new incinerators, stressing that they are ‘bad for the climate’, locking in waste production for decades and causing air pollution: “Neighbouring farms are right to be concerned about the impact this proposed development could have on their businesses,” said environmental spokesperson Mark Ruskell. “The SNP has committed to reviewing the role of incinerators, so I’d urge them to get on with it. It’s also clear that no new incinerators should be approved at least until that review is published.”

The SF reached out to the Scottish Government for an update on their election manifesto commitment to ‘review the role that incineration plays’. A spokesperson said: “Our commitment to tackling the climate emergency and transitioning to a net-zero economy by 2045 is unwavering. To help achieve this, building Scotland’s circular economy and reducing, recycling and reusing resources is vital. With this and our world-leading climate change targets in mind, we have committed to review the role that incineration plays in Scotland’s waste hierarchy. We will announce further details in due course.”