PLANS to build the county’s largest industrial waste digester on an orchard have prompted residents to form an opposition campaign group.

The plant at Milton Hill would process up to 50,000 tonnes of food waste every year, including 4,000 tonnes of chicken waste, to produce methane and carbon dioxide for energy.

Neighbours of Grove Farm near Didcot fear the facility will create bad smells which will drift over the neighbouring pick-your-own fruit business, wedding venue Steventon House Hotel, business centre and homes.

Residents Against Milton Digester (RAMD) spokeswoman Claire McMillan said: “The group is extremely concerned the size and location of the facility will cause long-term harm to the environment with a significant increase in traffic, putting an overwhelming strain on the local infrastructure.

“The plant would have major implications on residents’ quality of life with the risk of highly-offensive odours potentially ruining the opportunity to enjoy gardens and open windows.”

The facility would operate 24 hours a day, with heavy goods vehicles transporting waste to and from it between 7am and 6pm. It would supply 23,000 homes with environmentally-friendly power.

It would be built on an orchard managed by Q Gardens farm shop, which rents the land from Simon and Gemma Hartwright, understood to live nearby.

A spokesman for M2G Renewables, which is behind the proposal, said: “The anaerobic digester (AD) plant we are proposing will utilise processed and pre-pasteurized food matter in soup form; it will be delivered by sealed tanker, pumped into storage cylinders and pumped into the digesters without ever seeing the light of day.

“AD plants will have long term success if they are embraced by the local community as environmentally sustainable generators of renewable energy. It is worth pointing out that in the case of this plant, enough renewable gas will be injected into the grid at an injection point immediately adjacent to the subject site to meet the needs of 23,000 local homes and businesses.”