March 9 2014 Latest news:
Friday, February 14, 2014
A Suffolk MP is today calling for council bosses to defend the democratic rights of businesses and residents in opposing a controversial £100m straw burning biomass plant.
Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, is determined that the planning appeal into Eco2’s proposed Mendlesham Renewable Energy Plant will be heard at an open meeting – not by written representation, as the developer has requested.
He will meet today with Charlie Adan, the joint chief executive of Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils, urging for the authority’s previous rejection of the application to be “robustly defended in public”.
In a letter to Mid Suffolk council leader, Derrick Haley, Dr Poulter wrote: “I hope that the council will oppose the request for written representations and in the interests of transparency agree to a full hearing which I believe is appropriate in this case.
“I am sure you will agree that given the strength of public feeling, there is also a reputational issue at stake for the council in how this matter is handled.”
Eco2 said both sides had agreed for an appeal based on written representations to “keep costs down at a time when all councils’ budgets are stretched”.
Project director Andrew Toft said: “The process is wholly democratic since it requires a planning inspector to consider both sides’ views carefully, including all representations made to the council during a consultation period that lasted well over a year.
“The fact is that the council’s professional planning officers recommended approval of this project and this recommendation was overturned by its members. All Eco2 is seeking is an impartial second opinion.”
If the appeal is successful, Dr Toft said it would create 200 jobs during construction and more than 80 full-time jobs when complete. It is also expected to save around 150,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year.
Andrew Stringer, Mendlesham’s district councillor, said he would be providing submissions against the appeal, whether it was heard at an open meeting or by written representation, and did not have a preference over which route was taken.
Like Dr Poulter, Mr Stringer feared the location was inappropriate for an industrial development of this nature, which would have a “devastating impact” on local businesses.
Major Suffolk companies including Aspall Cyder, British Quality Pigs and Bacton Pigs Ltd have also raised concerns about the plant’s impact on their businesses and on local farms.
However, Mr Skinner warned against the MP “muddying the water” by intervening at this stage.
“Local democracy has spoken with a very strong voice, it’s now up to a centrally appointed planning inspector to decide,” he said.
Dr Poulter said it was not his practice to intervene in “what are essentially local council planning issues” but felt inclined to do so as it had “engendered enormous opposition”.