THE owners of a controversial biogas plant in East Renfrewshire are trying to overturn council-imposed restrictions on the operation.

Greenhags Energy Company were given permission to create the Newton Mearns facility despite strong objections from the local community.

East Renfrewshire Council chiefs gave consent for the plant in 2016 on the basis that only agricultural feedstock, rather than household or commercial waste, could be used to generate gas.

But UK Government rules now state that, in order to gain access to renewable heat incentive (RHI) funding, energy must be derived from at least 50 per cent wastes.

A planning statement by Alan Couper Consulting, on behalf of Greenhags, said: “The original premise of the plant was that it is an agricultural based plant, and this remains the case.

“It is intended that wastes and agricultural residues will be primarily sourced from the same or neighbouring farms to enable the plant to meet the requirement of producing 50 per cent of its energy from wastes or residues.

“In order to achieve this, it is proposed that a proportion of the grass silage originally proposed as the main feedstock component is substituted with wheat straw – an agricultural residue.

“Under the government’s proposal to revise the RHI regulations following a recent consultation, it will be necessary for the energy produced by the biomethane plant to be derived from at least 50 per cent wastes and/or residues in order to qualify for the full RHI support payments.

“The plans, as it is currently proposed, would not meet these requirements. The plans would need to comply with this aspect of the sustainability criteria in order to qualify for the full RHI support payments and would be unlikely to be viable without the full level of support available.”

If the new application is rejected, it could put the future of the plant in doubt.

Plans to use wheat straw and cattle slurry were rejected in 2016 amid fears these could have a detrimental effect on residents.

A report by Andrew Cahill, the council’s director of environment, is set to go in front of councillors today.

It states: “Having considered the additional use of wheat straw and digestate in the production of the biogas and biomethane, this is considered to be acceptable and is not considered to have an adverse impact on the surrounding area.”

Mr Cahill has recommended the application is approved but has submitted 19 conditions.