Residents plagued by years of ‘putrid’ stink and noise from a plant on the outskirts of Exeter that turns pig slurry into renewable energy can look forward to the slurry tank being covered by a lid designed to contain its smells.

But they will also have to put up with more traffic after East Devon District Council’s planning committee passed a fresh application from the company that runs the plant.

Gorst Energy originally received permission to put a lid on the giant anaerobic digestion tank in 2018, but hasn’t done so yet. The permission lapsed and the company applied again.

It also asked to more than double the amount of crops it can convert into energy for the National Grid.

The digester, which is next door to a pig farm, takes the farm’s slurry along with specially-grown crops to be broken down by bacteria in a large tank. The resulting gas creates energy.

Cllr Steve Gazzard (Lib Dem, Exmouth Withycombe Raleigh) ‘reluctantly’ proposed approval of the plans, adding: “I can’t think of a reason to refuse this.”

A previous application was turned down on appeal because of its effect on the residents of a nearby bungalow, but Gorst Energy has since bought the bungalow and uses it as part of the site.

The land is in open countryside opposite Westpoint, around 500 metres east of Clyst St Mary.

Gorst Energy says its proposal will increase efficiency and create more low carbon energy for consumers.

There were no objections from the Environment Agency, environmental health officers or highways authorities.

Speaking on behalf of Clyst St Mary residents, Gaeron Kayley said the plant was causing ‘misery’ and there had been ‘literally thousands’ of fruitless complaints to the Environment Agency over the years.

Cllr Mike Howe (Ind, Clyst Valley) said the dome lid should have been installed three years ago when permission was first given. 

“They chose not to do it then because they don’t care about the residents being affected around them,” he said.

“Local residents have had enough.

“I have been dealing with this site for over 10 years, and we have not been able to get any enforcement action on noise or smell.

“There is no control.”

Cllr Ian Barlow (Ind, Sidmouth Town) told the meeting: “This isn’t about being green, it’s about making money.”

And Cllr John Heath (Ind, Beer and Branscombe) said the noise from the plant was ‘a form of psychological torture’ for its neighbours.

David Manley, representing Gorst Energy, pointed out that the planning inspector had already said the changes could be made without causing nuisance, and there were already stringent controls around its operations.

Darren Stockley of its parent company Ixora Energy said the changes would bring additional benefits and around £4 million a year to the local economy.

“We take very seriously any complaints about noise, odour and traffic,” he said.

“We do all we can to engage with the community. We also try to act on any concerns raised to us.

“And the last 18 months have shown just how important reliable, renewable, local energy is rather than having to rely on Russia and Norway.”

Members agreed by a majority to approve the plans subject to a number of conditions.