Wiltshire Publications

Arla dairy warns an incinerator next door could shut them down

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Arla Foods, the owner of the Westbury dairy, is opposing the plans to build an energy from waste plant next door to its site in the town.

Arla has written to Wiltshire Council to oppose the hotly contested proposal by Northacre Renewable Energy Limited / Hills Group.

In its formal opposition to the proposal, Arla is concerned about the potential for emissions and odours which it says could force the dairy to shut down its operations, costing £11,000 an hour to avoid any risk of tainting its products.

It has also said that insufficient attention has been paid to the consequences for the dairy if the energy from waste site experiences plant failure, or unexpected or unplanned shutdowns.

The statement says, “Repeated suspensions of operations at the site would have severe implications in terms of added costs, and Westbury’s size and scale mean that if it is offline for any length of time the whole of the UK dairy industry could be affected.

“Arla has therefore concluded that the proposed incinerator is simply in the wrong place. That is why it has written to the council and other stakeholders objecting to the proposal being given planning permission.”

Westbury’s Arla site, at Stephenson Road on the West Wilts Trading Estate – is the biggest manufacturing site for butter in the UK, employing around 250 people.

In a letter to a local councillor, the dairy expresses “deep concerns” which it says it has tried over several months to engage constructively about with Hills Group, but “these discussions have not made substantive progress”.

“Given the obvious sensitivity of our operations, specifically our reliance on abundant supplies of clean air, and our growing understanding of the way the energy from waste plant will operate, we are now convinced that locating a facility of this type next to a dairy cannot be appropriate,” Arla adds in the letter. “We are therefore firmly opposed to the company’s application for planning permission.”

Each year the firm produces 60,000 tonnes of butter and spreads for the retail market, 20,000 tonnes of butter used by other food manufacturers and up to 55,000 tonnes of skimmed milk and buttermilk powders. Its intake amounts to around 5% of all the milk produced in the UK and the dairy employs around 250 people.

The letter to the councillor states, “Our site operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and utilises a process to skim whole milk leaving cream for butter production and simultaneously to dry the skimmed milk into powder. This means that having constant access to very large volumes of clean air for our dryer is critically important; if the air quality is compromised in any way by emissions that contain noxious gases, bioaerosols or odours we would simply have to suspend production and may be left with an unsaleable product. 

“We believe that Hills’ proposals pose a serious risk to the air quality we need.”

It adds, “Any threat to the future of the dairy would of course be devastating to colleagues working there, it would also severely affect the local community. Our major investments in the site have secured its future and made it a major employer in the area. Westbury is the home of Anchor butter and many have said that our site is an iconic symbol and a source of pride for the whole town.”

Westbury plays a critical role in balancing supply and demand at a national level, Arla writes, so disruption to its operations would have far wider ramifications.

One Response to Arla dairy warns an incinerator next door could shut them down

  1. Merrick

    April 2, 2021 at 1:22 pm

    I wonder how many businesses in the area will also be adversely effected if Arla were to close this facility this would be a major disaster economically for the whole area. One more reason to defiantly not to allow this to be built in Westbury

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