As many as 3,500 jobs could be lost in the agricultural and food and drink industry should a £100 million straw-fired biomass station in Mendlesham get the green light, according to a planning consultant.
Developers Eco2, who propose to build the station just off the A140 near Mendlesham, are preparing an appeal which is to be heard via a hearing by the Planning Inspectorate.
They say it would generate 300 million units of green energy a year - enough to power 65,000 homes - and would create 200 jobs at the height of the development’s construction.
But Planning Porta, in a statement on behalf of the Mid Suffolk District Council, said that thousands of jobs could be at risk should the plans go ahead.
It read: “The local availability of straw underpins a very substantial agricultural (and, by association, food and drink) industry which, if materially affected by the development, could put at risk up to an estimated 3,500 jobs in the region.
“Concern about the effect of the proposed development on this industry has been raised in a large number of third party representations to the council and to PINS (Planning Inspectorate).”
Andrew Toft, director of projects at Eco2, said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the figures put forward on behalf of Mid Suffolk District Council, and are a matter of discussion at the appeal.
“It is a fact that the UK produces far more straw than it can currently use,” he said.
“We tap into that unused but valuable excess. Eco2 remains confident that there is sufficient straw in East Anglia to maintain the supply to current markets whilst meeting the emerging market in renewable energy.”
“Many cereal farmers would be delighted to bale more straw if a reliable and long term customer joined the market. We offer that chance and nobody should deny growers the opportunity this brings.
“In expanding the supply of straw, we boost agricultural incomes, bring jobs, generate inward investment and help combat climate change. This is all good news and we are convinced that an impartial planning inspector will agree.”
A number of individuals, groups and businesses have raised concerns to the controversial plans, with worries over straw availability, the impact on traffic and the overall effect on the surrounding landscape.
Councillors at Mid Suffolk District Council refused planning permission in July of last year, going against officers’ recommendations to approve the development. Eco2 subsequently submitted an appeal to the decision in January.
Mid Suffolk District Council offices will host the appeal hearing, which is due to start at 10am on Tuesday, August 19.
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