Mendlesham: Biomass battle hots up as pig farmers launch fighting fund
11:00 15 February 2014
The company behind plans to build a controversial biomass plant at Mendlesham have insisted it will be good for farmers as pig producers prepare a ‘fighting fund’ to oppose it on appeal.
Eco2, the firm behind proposals to build the £100million plant, says it is appealing against last July’s decision by Mid Suffolk District Councillors to reject it by 16 votes to one, but no date has yet been set for the case to be heard.
Pig producers claim it will cause a straw shortage and push up prices, but this is denied by the company. Eco2 claims the plant will be good news for cereal farmers, who produce more straw than livestock farmers can use.
But pig farmers are now planning to fight the proposal at appeal, and have written to pig producers and allied industries as they build a fighting fund to pay for legal help at an estimated cost of £20,000. They hope that half can be raised from local residents, while the other half is drawn from pig and other livestock farmers.
They are appealing for pledges of between £100 to £1,000 and are holding a meeting at the BQP headquarters at Stradbroke on Thursday where pledges will be invited.
Sector leaders Howard Revell, Peter Crichton and Jimmy Butler. said: “We had a barrister defend this action in July 2013 which we feel helped us to achieve the decision by M.S.D.C. to refuse this planning application by 16 votes to 1 after the Planning Officer had recommended acceptance.
“It is our opinion that the same barrister should act for us at the appeal.”
They claim the plant it would be “catastrophic” for the pig and poultry industry because of the quantities of straw it would require.
“We all know how important straw is to our industry producing to Freedom Food and Red Tractor standards and it has become a major cost.
“The building of this plant would increase the cost of straw, I would estimate, by 25% this would be an annual cost increase. There just isn’t the straw available to service both the pig industry, other livestock farmers and these biomass plants that are being built at an alarming rate in East Anglia.
“This will be the third one to be built in East Anglia which is the second largest pig producing area in the country. The 50 mile area surrounding this site seriously overlaps with the one passed at Snetterton and also overlaps quite a bit into the sea.”
Eco2’s Director of Projects, Dr Andrew Toft said: “A business model based on competing for straw would be doomed to fail, on that we do agree with the pig and poultry industry. Thankfully, that is not how we work.
“It is a fact that the UK produces far more straw than it can currently use.
“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.”