The Institute of Spatial and Environmental Planning
School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering

Bell, Thomas

Towards understanding community acceptance using Anaerobic Digestion (AD) in Northern Ireland as a case study



School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering
Queen's University Belfast
Level 3
David Keir Building
Stranmillis Road
Belfast BT9 5AG
Northern Ireland


+44 (0)2890 974254


Current Research:

The research aims to investigate the concept of community acceptance by focussing on the deployment of Anaerobic Digestion (AD) plants in Northern Ireland. Butler et al., (2008) note that while people generally have concerns about climate change and appreciate the environmental benefits of renewable energy, there is a lack of awareness in respect of AD that can lead to negative perceptions and in turn, problems with project implementation. Since April 2011, there has been a surge of planning applications for AD plants in Northern Ireland, offering a substantive opportunity for rural economic development and a major contribution to the region’s shift to a low carbon economy. However, in light of this 'novel' technology, many proposals have attracted local debate and ultimately, third party objections and negative perceptions by the local community. This situation is not new, nor unexpected, as communities’ reaction to AD proposals appears to have similarities to that seen in the case of other Renewable Energy Technologies (RETs), such as wind farms. Yet the specific way in which AD plants are perceived and the impact this may have on the deployment of the technology is poorly understood, as noted in a recent report by DEFRA (April, 2011)  which suggested that a lack of collaboration and partnership between developers and local communities could compromise the potential of the technology. This research aims to explore the issues related to this ‘new’ RET, will develop an understanding of stakeholder perceptions using Q-Methodology  and hopes to contribute to our understanding of both the concept of community acceptance and the specific context for the development of AD as a critical component of the NI energy system. 

Supervisors: Dr. Geraint Ellis & Dr. Stephen McKay

Research Interests:

Renewable Energy, Sustainable Development, Community Acceptance


BSc (Hons) Environmental Planning (2006)
MSc Urban Regeneration (2007)

Conferences / Presentations:

Action Renewables / BDO – Renewable Energy in Northern Ireland Guest Speaker (June, 2011)


RICS Award for Best MSc Dissertation (2007)

Work experience:

Clyde Shanks Planning Development (current employment) – Associate
Turley Associates (2006 to 2011) – Assistant Planner to Senior Planner




Family and GAA