A BIOMASS boiler plant in Otterbourne which residents say has been causing noise pollution will continue operating under strict conditions.

Hampshire County Council has granted retrospective permission to Brooke Energy's plant at Four Dells Farm, Poles Lane.

The use of the site near Compton Down for waste recycling and two biomass boilers was granted back in 2016, but since then a single boiler standing at 13 and a half metres high has been installed instead.

Among the proposals in the new application were a 24 hour, seven days a week unmanned boiler and dryer operation, wood chip shredding from 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, and operation taking place on Sundays and public holidays for a maximum of an hour in "exceptional circumstances".

Councillors met to discuss whether 20 conditions should be imposed on operations, including that noise levels should not exceed 70 decibels during working hours and 60 overnight.

As reported in the Chronicle, residents raised concerns about regular emergency releases of steam, as well as noise levels, light pollution, and unmanned, 24 hour operation on the site.

The proposal received 16 objections and a petition against granting retrospective permission has garnered around 100 signatures.

The noise had previously been described by one resident, who asked not to be named, as " like a jet taking off at high speed".

But at the regulatory committee, applicant Glen Brooke said that following concerns over the noise levels of the emergency releases of steam at night, a new steam valve had been installed to combat the problem.

"We are now fully happy that we have that fully under control," he said.

He added that he felt "quite confident" they could comply with the proposed conditions, and that there was "no way that we would consider expanding the site".

However, the meeting heard that communications between the company and residents had "broken down".

Resident Gary Fowle said the visual impact of the site was, "absolutely heart-breaking", and that operations were, "aggressive, anti-social activities in a residential and rural area".

Resident John O'Neill, of Shepherds Lane, described the site as "an eyesore."

"It has happened with stealth, year on year," he said.

But John Venn, of Silkstead Farm, said the site was, "taking waste and providing something sustainable".

"This biomass boiler operation is by far the most sustainable farming operation anywhere in Hampshire," he said.

Cllr Jan Warwick, portfolio holder for environment at Winchester City Council, said: "The community has lost confidence with this site. There's a huge list of conditions which will be an enforcement problem.

"These emergency releases of steam should not be regular events however there had been four by the end of November last year followed by five more on the evening of December 9 between the hours of 9pm and 4am when the remote operator did not respond to the fault. This disturbed households across the area and could be heard in the centre of Hursley.

"These incidents call into question the ability of the operator to properly manage the site, as well as the level, competence and staffing of the out of hours cover.

"The track record on this site to date demonstrates a lack of empathy and regard for the local community."

Councillors voted 13-1 to approve the scheme, with a recommendation to set up a liaison panel between the applicant and residents.