Guided by the Council, Egger are planning some more noise reduction measures. The current situation and future plans were outlined by Nick Barrett, Environmental Health Manager for Northumberland County Council, at the Sandhoe Parish Council meeting on 25 March 2010. It remains to be seen whether these measures will suffice, but let's hope! A fuller report follows below. Ian Summary of discussions re Egger at Sandhoe Parish Council meeting 25 March 2010 Nick Barrett, Environmental Health Area Manager for Northumberland County Council, confirmed that the Council is not satisfied that Egger have met the planning conditions regarding noise from log-loading and chipping at the plant. There has been progress in removing many noise nuisances. Other environmental requirements, as set out in the Environmental Permit for the plant and the planning conditions, are generally met according to routine monitoring. The Council was aware that log-loading and chipping could cause noise problems for residents and therefore imposed a specific planning condition that the noise from these activities should be modelled and studied in detail to prove compliance before construction began. However, this condition was lifted at Egger’s request in return for a commitment that Egger would take any necessary measures to ensure that there would be no noise nuisance. Given the scale of problem and the time being taken to resolve it, Nick recognised in hindsight that the concession was a mistake. However, Egger are undertaking further work, and the Council will pursue the matter until it is satisfactorily resolved for residents. The aim is to reduce the noise from the processes to such a level that there is no need for restrictions on hours of operation – as is the case for most processes in the plant. The Council is prepared to take formal enforcement action if needed but it has to act “reasonably” in legal terms and its policy is to seek compliance through negotiation. There are three sources of outstanding noise: 1) “Holtec” log-loading machine (the banging and crashing noise) 2) “Klockner” hack chipper in the Shed 32 north-facing “cave” (the “vortex” noise) 3) mobile chipping machine. Varying raw materials supply causes changes in the extent to which each of these machines are used. Recently, the recession has reduced supply of hack chips from saw mills. The bad winter has constrained supply of new logs from local forests. There is increasing competition from the biofuels industry to purchase the wood waste materials Egger use. 1) The Holtec machine was itself a replacement higher capacity machine. It was intended to reduce the number of hours log-loading is required and to reduce noise. Hours of operation have been reduced but the machine has not achieved the expected noise reductions. Egger have now accepted that a significant degree of enclosure of the machine is needed and a planning application was submitted on 22 March 2010 for construction of roofing and an acoustic enclosure on the east side of the machine which faces Oakwood. This application should become available for public consultation during the week beginning Monday 29 March at the Planning Department in Hexham. There will be 3 weeks to submit comments. The Council will also require a detailed acoustic assessment from Egger. 2) Measures to contain the noise from the Klockner are being implemented. A screen of heavy rubber sheets has been installed in part of the area and there is to be a roller shutter door installed over the rest. If necessary more measures could be taken on the machine itself. The Council will monitor progress. This machine is not used at night. 3) The mobile chipper is now located in the yard in the middle of the plant, only operates in daytime and should not create disturbance. Nick explained that smells may occur occasionally in particular weather conditions, but that he is satisfied that the plant is meeting emissions requirements. In the context of a report of the Parish Council Liaison Meeting (see below for John Pennie’s report) concerns that some of the saplings in the tree screen in front of Oakwood are not thriving are to be explored and it was noted that Egger accept that full enclosure of the plant would be possible but “would have a severely detrimental effect operationally”. Residents expressed appreciation for the Council’s efforts but underlined that there is continuing frustration that noise problems are still outstanding and prevent enjoyment of gardens and penetrate even within houses.