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Blakenham: Hundreds of jobs on the way from greenhouse project linked to incinerator

PUBLISHED: 09:00 22 November 2012 | UPDATED: 09:18 22 November 2012

Tomatoes in a huge greenhouse

Tomatoes in a huge greenhouse

Archant © 2009

A MULTI-million pound green project is set to create 180 new jobs in the wake of the construction of the new waste incinerator at Great Blakenham.

Heat produced by the plant is set to be channelled to two huge greenhouses to be built beside the B1113 between Blakenham and Bramford.

These should produce about 10% of the British-grown tomatoes sold in this country.

The project will cost £30 million to set up. The owners and operators of the incinerator – or energy from waste plant as it is officially known – will spend £2 million on supplying the pipes to take the heat to the greenhouses.

The project is being promoted by a group called Sterling Suffolk headed by Michael Blakenham and supported by Cliff Matthews, regional manager of SITA UK which is building the incinerator.

As well as heating the greenhouses, the plant will also generate enough electricity to power all the homes in a town the size of Lowestoft.

Britons eat about 500,000 tonnes of tomatoes a year. At present only about 75,000 tonnes are actually grown in this country – the rest are imported, mainly from countries in southern Europe and north Africa.

The two greenhouses at Blakenham, one 500 metres by 230 metres and one 530 metres by 210 metres, would supply 7,500 tonnes a year.

A similar set-up exists at Wissington in west Norfolk where heat generated by the British Sugar factory there is used in two massive greenhouses which produce thousands of tonnes of tomatoes.

Mr Matthews said: “This would be a major boost for local employment, creating many permanent jobs.”

He said the tomatoes would be grown hydroponically – without using soil – and the technology should allow them to be produced 10 months a year.

Michael Blakenham said the scheme would be financed by a consortium of local growers. He said: “This is a very good opportunity to develop this kind of system – there is increasing demand for food produced as near home as possible and this will fit in well with that.”

A planning application is expected to be submitted to Mid Suffolk District Council for the greenhouses early next year, and the promoters are hoping it will be given planning permission by the middle of 2013.

If the application is successful the greenhouses could be in operation by December 2014, when the incinerator is due to come into operation.

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