A community group behind plans for a £2.5 million power plant have secured a site to bring their project to fruition.

Brampton and Beyond Energy Ltd (BABE) have signed a 25-year lease agreement with Stobart Air Ltd for a four-acre pocket of land on the western side of Carlisle Airport.

They plan to build a 500kw community-owned anaerobic digestion plant over the next two years.

Directors of the renewable energy group said the announcement marks a “significant milestone for the ambitious project”.

BABE chairman Tim Coombe said: “It’s fundamental to the whole project to have somewhere to put it. That’s been agreed, so it’s great. If we were big landowners that bit would be relatively easy but of course we’re not.

“It’s nice that Stobart are very supportive of what we’re trying to achieve.”

Richard Butcher, of Stobart Group, said: “An anaerobic digestion plant will help to lower the airport’s overall carbon footprint and we also anticipate there being other social and economic benefits to the community after the plant becomes operational.

“We look forward to supporting BABE’s initiative on this exciting journey.”

The group, which set out on the venture almost five years ago, is due to apply for planning permission either next month or in November, once engineering and environmental studies are complete.

The lease agreement, which is subject to planning permission, has triggered the release of funding from a Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF) – £120,000 – which is split into milestone payments.

If planning permission is refused, this loan, from the Department for Energy and Climate Change, would be written off.

With the lease agreement in place it means BABE can aim to build further support for the project.

In the coming weeks leaflets, including a questionnaire, are due to be distributed to homes in the area, which will include Carlisle and Brampton.

If granted planning approval, BABE is due to launch a share prospectus which will seek to raise £250,000 towards the overall capital cost of the project. Mr Coombe said the return on any investment in shares is likely to be about five per cent.

“Again, it’s absolutely essential. We formed a company that was always intended to require community support both in the form of verbal support but also in the form of investment,” he said. “It’s supposed to be about community and communities doing things for themselves.

“There’s no reason the community won’t be behind it but you don’t know until you try.”

The plant will generate renewable electricity to power more than 500 homes, contributing towards BABE’s long-term goal to reduce local dependency on fossil fuels, to the benefit of both the environment and the economy.

It will be fuelled by local farmyard manure and silage.

BABE has selected Williams Industrial Services as the preferred contractor for the build phase which will begin after a funding package – of the community share issue, aided funding and potential commercial funding – has been secured.

The survey will also be available online through www.babenergy.co.uk and copies will be available at Brampton Community Centre and the Moot Hall in the town centre.