East Anglia: Straw-powered plant in Snetterton gets the go-ahead

PLANS for a straw-fired power plant in East Anglia have been given the green light.

Iceni Energy got the go-ahead at a Breckland Council planning meeting yesterday for a biomass plant at Snetterton in Norfolk, which is set to create energy by burning straw and wood chip.

Another company, Eco2 Ltd, has submitted controversial plans for a �100million straw-powered plant at Mendlesham.

Concerned Mendlesham villagers have hit out at the proposals, which are being assessed by Mid Suffolk District Council, and raised concerns about emissions. Fears have also been raised that the plants could adversely affect livestock farmers, and particularly Suffolk’s large pig farming operations, which rely on straw.

The Mendlesham Renewable Energy Plant would burn 240,000 tonnes of straw a year and be built by the A140 in Wetheringsett-cum-Brockford.

Norfolk-based renewable energy developer Iceni said it was delighted that its plans had got the go-ahead.

The plant, which was recommended for approval by the planning officers at Breckland Council, will burn primarily cereal and oilseed rape straw and will generate enough power to meet the annual energy consumption of the equivalent of between 62,000 and 68,000 homes. The company claims this in turn would prevent to emission of 120,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

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Andy Hilton, CEO of Iceni Energy Ltd, said: “We are absolutely delighted with today’s decision and would like to thank all those who have supported our project throughout the planning process.”

Prior to submitting the application last June, Iceni Energy organised a community consultation programme which saw them engage with over 2,300 local residents, councillors and interest groups. The consultation, which included a website, public exhibition and community newsletter, found that 50% of respondents were in support of the biomass plant with a further 23% undecided.

Mr Hilton said: “Since we submitted our application Breckland Council have received over 50 letters of support from residents who have recognised the benefits the biomass plant will bring to the area. More letters of support were received than objection letters.

“As well as providing 80 permanent jobs , operating the plant and delivering fuel, the plant will unlock Breckland Council’s plans to double the 30 hectares of business and light industry by providing the grid connection infrastructure required. This expansion would then generate

between 500 and 1,500 jobs by 2021 in the Snetterton Heath Employment area.”

Speaking after the meeting Shropham councillor Philip Cowen, who objected to the proposal, said he was “disappointed” by the result.

“I think this is a poor decision,” he said. “I understand why it’s been made and obviously there’s a need for power in Snetterton but the end doesn’t justify the means. All we’ve done is create a time-bomb for the community.

“We have all these power stations being proposed but farmers are already struggling to find straw. There’s an awful problem looming which we need to be mindful of.”

Mr Hilton attempted to allay fears during the meeting and said he had been assured by Anglia Farmers, which was contracted to provide straw for the plant, that there was enough straw not to create a deficit for farmers.