The latest addition to the expansion plans for Penrith’s Omega Proteins site has been revealed.
A further planning application has been submitted to Eden District Council for a new building at the animal by-products processing facility.
With several planning applications for the Omega Proteins site awaiting a decision from the council, the new application, for a new 875sq m, 9.3m metre tall building, represents the latest in a string of proposed additions to the site.
Documents prepared for the latest application state that Omega Proteins was committed to a major investment programme at the Penrith site, and that the business was investing in the latest machinery as process lines are renewed and upgraded to ensure efficiency, reliability and peak environmental performance.
The latest application requests planning permission for the development of a new building for the storage and dispatch of finished meal product, described as part of the wider improvement works at the Penrith plant.
Animal by-product material is brought to the Penrith site, which employs about 100 people, for immediate processing from abattoirs, meat processing plans, catering operations and retail premises across the country.
The by-products are then turned into a range of oils, fats and meals with applications in industries including power, aviation, and pet food.
Part of the investment in the site involves the installation of “new and improved systems for air handling and odour abatement”, the documents add, technology which is said to be “at the heart of ensuring the plant can operate without adverse impact on the local community in and around Penrith”.
It said many factors were driving the need for change at the site, and one of the key factors was the impact of Brexit.
“Brexit will impact on established trading patterns with Europe so Omega must be able to look to a much broader range of international markets for the goods it produces at Penrith and be able to create products that meet the legislative requirements of these new markets and customers,” the planning statement for the latest application said.
“Single species product is the key to enabling international trade so the business must have the process lines and material handling facilities to be able to guarantee 100 per cent pure species products in order to thrive post-Brexit.
“For example, exporting to Muslim countries requires some products to be warranted as pork-free, and others require sterilisation of export products.”
Another key issue given is the pursuit of improved environmental performance, secured through measures to deliver better odour control and treatment, as well as improved energy and water efficiency in the industrial processes, and and increase in the contribution of renewable energy to meet the power demands of the planet, it said.
The company added it was also pursuing job retention, with the investment in the site said to be helping to ensure the business remained at the forefront of the animal by-products industry.
“Omega Proteins is pursuing a programme of substantial investment in the Penrith plant to ensure the continued resilience of the business, provide support for safe working practices and to deliver continued environmental compliance and renewal of buildings and process lines,” the planning statement said.
“It is hoped that the district council will be able to approve this application without delay so that the applicant can move on to the construction phase of the scheme.”
Separately, in addition to awaiting decisions on its plans from Eden District Council, Omega Proteins is also awaiting a decision on its application to vary its operations permit with the Environment Agency.
The Environment Agency’s consultation period on this application ends on March 31, and members of the public are invited to submit their views on the proposed variation to the company’s permit, which include the addition of new processes including a change to its “primary odour abatement” mechanism, by way of a multi-fuel thermal oxidiser.
The new proposed oxidiser set-up is said to be designed to provide additional effective odour abatement under the same conditions as the existing equipment, but with more capacity.
Odours emanating from the site have repeatedly attracted complaints from Penrith residents in recent years, though the company has stated a new oxidiser will help “eliminate” any odours coming from the site.
A spokesman for the Leo Group, which runs Omega Proteins, has previously said: “We take our responsibilities seriously and endeavour to be good neighbours.
“We are continuously investing in new technology and have done since acquiring the site in 2002.
“We are also working closely with the environment agency in conjunction with our environmental permit.”
Jeff Thomson, of the Fresh AIR for Penrith campaign, has long spoken out against the plant, and has urged residents to engage with the consultation.
“We urge local people to look the application and its full implications for Penrith and give comments to the Environment Agency,” he said.